To Sign or Not to Sign: Paid Sick Leave Initiative


    To Sign or Not to Sign: Paid Sick Leave Initiative 

    One petition being circulated for this year’s ballot is the “Paid Sick Leave Initiative.” It lays out rules that, if put on the ballot and passed, would require private Nebraska employers to provide a minimum amount of sick leave.  

    “The object of this petition is to enact a statute to provide eligible employees the right to earn paid sick time for personal or family health needs, to entitle those employed by employers with fewer than 20 employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours of earned paid sick time per year, to entitle those employed by employers with 20 or more employees to accrue and use up to 56 hours of earned paid sick time per year, to specify conditions for accruing and using earned paid sick time, to prohibit retaliation against an employee for exercising rights granted under the statute, to adopt certain notice and documentation requirements, and to establish enforcement powers and a civil cause of action for violations of the statute.” 

    To see the plan laid out to accomplish this objective, voters can read the entire proposed Act. It lays out obligations for employers. Employees would earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, whether they are part-time or full-time. Sick time could be used for the employee or for an employee’s family member. In addition, employers would not be allowed to retaliate against an employee for using sick time, and must clearly inform employees of the policy.  

    Current Situation with Sick Leave for Private Nebraska Employers 

    The initiative would apply to private employers. Currently, whether a company offers sick leave varies due to several factors, including industry and size. (All of the following statistics are taken from Nebraska’s 2021 Department of Labor report.) Some industries are likely to offer sick leave to their full-time employees; others are not. The three most likely industries to offer sick leave to some or all full-time employees are utilities (92.9%), finance/insurance (88.5%), and health care/social assistance (83.2%), while the three least likely to offer sick leave to full-time employees are accommodation/food services (20.4%), construction (32.1%), and transportation/warehousing (36.8%). 

    Part-time employees are less likely to have access to paid time off. Management/enterprises, finance/insurance, and health care/social assistance are most likely to offer sick leave to some or all of their part-time employees, while the construction, mining, and manufacturing are among the least likely.  

    Roughly, employees in more stable and better-paying jobs have more access to sick leave, while those in low-income, less stable jobs have less. Also, roughly, the smaller a company is, the less likely they are to offer sick leave.  

    Arguments to Consider 

    Several arguments exist both for and against paid sick leave laws; a few are outlined below. 

    Arguments for a law requiring private companies to pay sick leave 

    • Businesses and employees are both hurt when employees come to work sick; sick employees are less productive; their condition could worsen and cause them to lose even more time; and they could cause other workers to become ill. 

    • Paid sick leave gives an employee more stability by allowing them to maintain their income while they are unable to work. 

    • Low-income workers who are already less stable financially will be less likely to lose their jobs due to illness, since employers may not retaliate for the use of sick leave. 

    • Employees will have less stress, which could make them more productive. 


    Arguments against a law requiring private companies to pay sick leave 

    • Employees might abuse the policy and take time off when they are not sick. 

    • The increase in cost could hurt a business, especially small businesses. (Whether paid sick leave laws help or hurt a business seems to depend partially on the supply and demand of labor; various studies have found negative, positive, and neutral effects on businesses.) 

    • Companies must deal with difficult schedule changes when employees are out sick. 

    • Some are concerned that it is not the government’s place to force a company to offer any given benefit. 

    • If a free-market economy works, then if sick time benefits a given company, that company will offer it without government intervention; if it is not, then a government requirement for sick leave will hurt the economy by forcing companies to offer a benefit that is not in their best interests. 

    Voters’ beliefs about economic policies, the role of government, public health, and the rights of workers and employers will inform their decisions about whether to sign this petition. For more information on the petition, voters can read the initiative for themselves or visit the Paid Sick Leave for Nebraskans page. 


    Research and writing by Vickie Hecker. Vickie is a state employee, but her postings on this site do not speak for the views of the state, its customers, clients, suppliers, or employees. Any links to state sites are provided for informational purposes only.