Paid Sick Leave Being Considered by Legislature

Mar 21, 2017

Paid Sick Leave for Hawai'i Workers?
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

An estimated 43 percent of private sector workers in Hawai’i lack paid sick leave.   As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, state lawmakers are attempting to address this issue.

Paid sick leave would provide workers time off to take care of their own health needs and the healthcare needs of their families.  Employees who work more than 680 hours in Hawai’i would be eligible for one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.   But, Melissa Pavlicek, speaking on behalf of the one-thousand member Society for Resource Management Hawai’i Chapter, says the proposed legislation is too rigid.

“The vast majority of HR professionals in our board has come out on the position that we want to promote workplace flexibility; we want to support leave policies that are customized employer by employer and employee by employee, in some cases.  And so we continue to oppose mandates on sick leave.”

Pavlicek says HR professionals are willing to work on the legislation to clarify requirements.   The Chamber of Commerce of Hawai’i also opposes the proposed bill because it imposes an administrative and cost burden on small businesses.   Pono Chong is the Chamber’s Vice President for Business Advocacy.

“Employers want to have the flexibility.  Once you put this into statute it’s one size fits all.  Every business has to offer the same thing to every single employee.  And I think that will hamper many small businesses to apply flex time or various types of paid time off as well as other compensation they may provide already.”

Chong says it’s a complex issue because there are so many different versions of paid leave benefits and compensation in Hawai’i.    Currently, employers with more than 100 workers, provide unpaid family leave.  And all employers are required by law to provide Temporary Disability Insurance for non-work related injuries.    Department of Labor and Industrial Relations director, Linda Chu Takayama, says these policies potentially overlap and could result in disputes and legal challenges.

“The bill includes a provision:  If the employee is not getting satisfaction they have a right of action which means they have to take it to court.  You know, how that delays things or makes the situation adversarial between the employee and employer  – you know --  not quite sure how all of that would play out.”

The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee passed the measure, which Vice Chair Karl Rhoads says could be an important benefit.

“I think just about everybody’s been in a situation where they themselves were fine but there was a child or another family member that needed somebody to take care of them but as a matter of family medical leave it’s not for them, it’s just for you.  So what this bill would do is expand it out so that you could take care of other people in the family; not just yourself.”

The measure now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.    Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.