I want to thank the chairman for holding this hearing and I also want to thank the panel for their willingness to participate in this important dialogue.
Anyone who works for a living is keenly aware of the time demands that work imposes. The task of balancing work and family life is never easy, and when illness compounds the situation, the challenge becomes even greater. Most private-sector employers are acutely aware of this reality and increasingly responsive to it.
In the most recent member benefit survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 86 percent of the respondents reported that their companies provided paid sick leave either under a separate sick leave program, or as part of a general paid time off plan. More than 80 percent also indicated that they provide both short-term and long-term disability insurance coverage. In addition, an increasing number utilize even more creative approaches such as paid time off, and sick leave banks, or pools.
The more broadly-based National Compensation Survey reveals that on an overall national basis 68 percent of full-time employees have access to paid sick leave programs at work.
Most employers make these provisions both because they know that a healthy workforce benefits their business; and, because they know that in a competitive labor market, such as the one we have right now, they must address this issue to attract and retain quality employees.
Benefit Averaging $7.50 an hour
Today, the average cost of employee benefits for all employers in the private sector is nearly $7.50 an hour. Average benefits now comprise nearly 30 percent of total payroll costs. That number has been increasing over the years, and such numbers support the importance that most employers attach to providing meaningful benefit packages, including provisions for illness-related absences, for their employees.
Despite these facts, however, some employees do not have paid sick leave available to them at their place of work because many of these individuals are part-time employees and many work for smaller employers. Those small employers very often face the same cost squeeze and financial pressures that their own employees face. Many business owners view their employees as their own extended family. That is a fact that we need to always keep in mind as we discuss either wages or benefits and small business. We also must be aware that any additional requirements we place on small business may be the...