The second coming of swine flu has reignited the debate over paid sick leave. “You have all of our top officials saying, ‘Do the responsible thing. If you're sick, stay home,’” an advocate tells CNNMoney. “And at the same time, we have a country where almost half the workforce doesn't have a single paid sick day.” Though small business owners feel their employees’ pain, many say they just can’t afford it.
Half the workforce can’t take paid sick leave unless it's scheduled ahead of time. Laws requiring around 5 to 10 days, depending on company size, have passed in some locales and are making headway elsewhere. New York City is engaged in a fierce debate, and even Congress could soon consider a bill mandating paid leave. But the cost is too high, one advocate for business says: “Government is trying to do something that's well-intentioned, but they have no idea what the effect is on a small business.”