Should We Pay Sick Employees Who Have #COVID-19 #Coronavirus?

Should We Pay Sick Employees Who Have #COVID-19 #Coronavirus?

Yes. Would be the easy answer. The popular answer.

Let me share a little story and then we can really answer this question.

Local hotel in your city down by the local convention center. A national chain, but locally owned and operated. The husband and wife both work full time at this hotel. Every conference for the foreseeable future has been canceled at the local convention center. They went from almost full every week to under 25% full. One of their 150 employees just came down with COVID and now many others will as well. This employee wants to be paid for all 14 days, minimally, they have to be out of work.

Because of the 75% loss of business, the owners are seriously going to have to cut expenses to even stay open and escape bankruptcy. They care deeply for their staff. They consider their staff, family. Many have been with them for over twenty years. These are proud people.

United Airlines is going to have its business crushed as well. Turns out, people don’t want to fly on virus chambers during deadly outbreaks. Plus business travel is being curtailed at almost every organization. A big giant publicly-traded company that probably made billions last year in profit, when times were flying high and the economy was awesome. They could also have an employee come down with COVID-19.

Do you think both employers should pay sick leave for as many employees who need it, for as long as you need it? Just the local hotel? Just United Airlines?

Why?

Business Insider ran an article about how “brilliant” Trader Joe’s is for coming out and saying they’ll pay their employees to stay home until the virus symptoms are gone, flu, COVID, etc. It seems like the ‘right’ thing to do. You have sick employees and you want to protect them and your customers, and your brand, so pay them to stay home.

It’s an easy decision when you make 76% margin on 6 oz. of Organic Wasabi SeaFoam for $12.99. It seems ‘right’ (Editor’s Note: Tim has no idea if Trader Joe’s sells Organic Seafoam or their margins). Rich people buy overpriced, and quite tasty, products, great business model, well run, we’ve got the money, it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.

It’s not the “right” or “brilliant” thing to do for everyone. One organization decides to make that same decision and the entire company goes under. Or they can’t ever recover to the level they did and now they’re being sold to private equity who’s going to chop them up and sell the pieces. Brilliant business decisions are brilliant in very specific ways.

We all have stakeholders that these decisions will impact. Employees. Customers. Shareholders (F! The Shareholders, Tim!). Etc.

The reality is my grandmother and her pension might be one of the shareholders who are super concerned about being able to retire. Joe Plumber might have is retirement in his 401K that has a concern about these decisions. These decisions aren’t linear.

It’s easy to say pay all sick employees for as long as they need. Any moron can say that’s a “brilliant” business decision because it’s always going to be a popular business decision. The brilliant business decision, and maybe the most difficult one a leader will ever have to make, might be to not pay sick employees for their entire time they need to be off.

Each organization is going to have to make these decisions for all involved. It’s multi-dimensional and it’s complex. Before judging someone as being brilliant and an idiot, you would first have to understand each individual situation.

All that being said, we need to find ways to help our employees and their families out during times of crisis. That’s what the best organizations do. It’s not always just more money, more time off, it can be a thousand different things. The key is to have the conversations and be out in front with communications early, so employees aren’t having the additional stress of not knowing.