by Juliana Vadnais, Albuquerque Business First

One of the hardest decisions to make is whether to stay home sick and not draw a paycheck, or go to work sick and get paid. In New Mexico, nearly half of all employees have to make that decision when they get sick.

In President Barack Obama’s state of the union address in 2015, he noted that the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave.

In a new report released by New Mexico Voices For Children and written by Gerry Bradley, MA, senior researcher and policy analyst, New Mexico has 49.7 percent of private-sector workers without paid sick leave, more than any other state. New Mexico wasn’t alone at nearly 50 percent, though. The state with the lowest percentage was New Hampshire, with 38.9 percent of workers lacking paid sick leave.

With nearly half of New Mexico workers lacking paid sick leave, the cost of mandating a program is not insignificant, the author says. Last year the New Mexico Task Force on Work Life Balance launched a family-friendly business award recognizing businesses that have family-friendly policies, including paid leave.

“Virtually all city and state government employees have paid sick leave as a benefit already,” Bradley said. “Therefore there would be no new cost for government workers. The cost would be roughly $240 million a year for private sector employers for one week of sick leave.”

The report said the main reason for New Mexico’s lack of paid sick leave is the high concentration of workers in low-wage employment sectors.

The benefits of having paid sick leave can impact everyone from employee to employer to the community. Workers can care for sick children knowing they won’t be losing wages or take the time to get well themselves.

“Having paid sick leave would cut turnover, lessening the cost of training new workers,” Bradley said. “There are obvious benefits to low wage workers, but also public health benefits. This is because many workers currently without sick leave are food service workers or workers who work with children or the elderly.”

There are currently paid sick days laws in place in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and in 17 cities across the country. You can read the full report here.

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