Pandemic & PTO
By Laura Michaels
Pam Babcock, the owner of My Chores Are Yours, appreciates what a deep clean can do for a both a home and a state of mind.
“We are not a spray-and-wipe company,” she said. “So it’s not like we are holding containers and spraying and wiping away. Our hands are always in products.”
With cases of the coronavirus continuing to spread across Michigan, sanitation is on everyone’s mind. So is stopping the spread of the illness.
As of our interview, Babcock said only one customer put a hold on housecleaning services.
“She said when this, you know, the epidemic is what she called it, when it’s over, she’ll call us back,” said Babcock.
Babcock employs about 29 workers. Since her business has less than 50 people, she’s not required to provide paid sick leave under Michigan law. She doesn’t. Doing so would “greatly, greatly” impact her bottom line, she said.
However, when an employee takes a sick day, Backbock, said it has always been her philosophy not to push back.
“I don’t give anybody a hassle if they are sick and not feeling well and need to be absent,” she said. “That’s just the reality of running a business.”
The issue of whether companies should be required to pay their employees when they are out sick is returning to public discussion. The Paid Medical Leave Act went into effect in Michigan in March 2019. The measure requires employers with at least 50 employees to allow workers to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours of work.
Whether someone can afford to stay home to take care of his or her health should not be up for discussion during a pandemic, said Linda Vail, a health officer with the Ingham County Health Department.
“This is a time when we need people to make the right choice, which is to be able to stay home when they’re sick,” said Vail.
The overarching goal of other measures such as closing schools and canceling large-scale events is to flatten the number of cases so they don’t overwhelm the health care system, according to Vail.
Many people will have minor symptoms. Others will develop serious illnesses, she said.
“The number of people that have serious illnesses have the potential to tax our health care system’s capacity to take care of that many people at a time,” she said.
Even if it’s just a temporary measure, Vail said Michigan employers should implement paid sick-time plans.
“Their losses by paying those employees to stay home are going to be much less significant than them coming to work sick and infecting the rest of the workforce,” she said.
If the government were to force paid sick time, pushback would likely follow, according to Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Daman.
“Whether you are a small business or a large business … the government mandates and what and how that works is one of those tricky areas that always generates a lot of debate from the business community,” he said.
Daman will be closely watching how virus-combating measures such as work-from-home policies and canceled in-person meetings play out in the long term.
“Employers are probably going to have to be very flexible,” he said. “They are probably going to have to bend some policies that maybe weren’t in place previously. It’s kind of an unprecedented time we are in right now.”
As for Pam Babcock, she loves the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur. She’s seen a lot in her 40 years of cleaning homes.
She knows she’ll survive this too.
“Even as bad as it can get, it’s not going to stay bad forever.”