If paid sick time is “a basic human right” (as Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling recently put it), why, then, is it the employer’s responsibility to provide it? Is it also the employer’s responsibility to ensure _______? (Insert your preferred “human right” here.)

I ask these questions as a Portland resident and a business owner who, by the way, provides wellness time to our employees (in addition to employer-paid health insurance, dental insurance, short-term disability insurance, long-term disability insurance, life insurance, 401(k) matching, profit sharing and tuition reimbursement). I point this out not to boast, but to make it clear that I value not only wellness time (sick time is so passé and comes with all those restrictions), but also a comprehensive benefit package that demonstrates to our employees that they are our greatest asset.

However, I don’t believe it is the government’s job to dictate benefits, especially in today’s economy. We added wellness time about four years ago – we would have added it a few years earlier, but with talk about a state-mandated requirement that would have been in addition to whatever private employers already offered, I didn’t think my company could afford both.

And that is the point I want to make. If the government can’t pay for what it deems are “human rights” and, in turn, forces the cost onto employers, then don’t be surprised when jobs are lost, costs go up and people game the system. However, with 1 percent to 2 percent unemployment, the marketplace – excuse me, I meant the workforce – will dictate and employers will follow.

So to all my fellow business owners, I encourage you to offer benefits that help you to attract and keep the best employees. And for those of you who don’t, I’m sorry – you’ll quickly find yourself shorthanded and, even worse, begging Mayor Strimling for help. And that, my friend, is a very, very sad thought.

Paul Tyson

Portland

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