Mailbag: Why Not Pay for Unused Sick Days?

MailbagOur post last week highlighting WGAL’s story on government workers receiving hefty payouts for unused sick days sparked a lively discussion. Here’s a question that popped up frequently: Do sick day payouts for teachers really cost taxpayers more? After all, if teachers did use all their sick days, we’d have to pay for substitute teachers, right?

It’s true that a teacher taking a sick day, which requires a substitute, costs the same as paying the teacher for an unused sick day. But that doesn’t make the unnecessary benefit any more affordable, especially when budgets are crunched. Harrisburg paid $410,000 to 50 retiring employees for unused sick leave at the same time administrators were considering axing the school district’s kindergarten program. Neither does the policy come close to what most Pennsylvanians in the private sector experience: Use your sick daysor lose them.

Sick days are meant to give employees a cushion for when they’re ill and can’t work. They’re not meant to be “banked” and cashed in for tens of thousands of dollars when workers retire, creating another benefit. Paying for unused sick days drives up taxes and leads to layoffs when times are hard. It’s time to end this sickening practice.