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Unlimited Sick Days? A Terrible Idea?

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The battle rages on in the small business arena about sick days. Increasingly, businesses are limiting or abandoning paid sick days, while, at the same time, some governments are requiring it to be offered as a benefit.

Who is right in this battle of philosophies?

From the small business perspective, a requirement to provide paid sick days is another costly mandate at a time when the economy is squeezing from all directions.

Darlene M. Miller, president and CEO of Permac Industries, told NBC News: "People will lose jobs."

If governments mandate paid sick time, "it will ultimately make small manufacturers like my company less competitive, and reduce the work that we win in our bidding," she said in the NBC News article linked to above.

As of now, one state — Connecticut — requires companies to pay for employee sick days. In addition, various cities have passed such measures, including San Francisco and Seattle. Similar laws are under consideration in New York City, Philadelphia and Massachusetts.

According to NBC News, a few years ago, a national mandate for sick leave was under consideration during the "swine flu" scare and it gained some momentum in Congress before falling short of a serious legislative push. Most analysts doubt the measure will reappear anytime soon in Washington as the topic of out-of-control spending dominates the political landscape.

Another problem that paid sick leave policies prompt is dealing with excessive and unwarranted absenteeism. Some critics note the overly high absenteeism rates on Fridays and Mondays for companies with lenient paid sick leave policies.

Denise Fleury, senior consultant in health and benefits business at Mercer, told NBC News that dealing with absenteeism is a challenge for small businesses but disputed the idea that employees take advantage of paid sick days. "When you have a smaller company, it's more of a community, so I would think abuse of sick leave would be not as prevalent as people might think," she said.

Another approach gaining some favor is for companies to give a certain number of aggregate days off for both vacation and sick leave — incentivizing the employee to only use sick days sparingly and when actually warranted.

When it comes to paid sick days policies, the debate rages on.