Lack of Paid Sick Days is Harming Public Health

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According to a new survey of almost 1,500 people released by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, nearly one in six people say they have lost a job for taking time off of work for an illness. Three out of four respondents say that paid sick days are a basic worker’s right and would support a law that guarantees these to employees.

Data indicates that more than 40 million workers in the US do not have paid sick days, so more than half have gone to work with a contagious illness because they could not take the time off to recover. People without paid time off were twice as likely as those with paid sick days to use hospital emergency rooms instead of their regular physicians because they “were unable to take off from work to get medical care during normal job hours.”

Children are affected by parents’ inability to take off from work as well. Nearly twice as many workers without paid sick days have sent a child to school or daycare with an illness.

Read: Expansion to FMLA Gives Non-Married Partners Unpaid Leave to Care for Children

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"This new survey shows conclusively that our nation is paying a high price for not allowing workers to earn paid sick days," said Deborah Leff, president of the Public Welfare Foundation. "It demonstrates that not having paid sick days drives up the costs of health care and causes more people to go to work sick, creating public health risks for everyone."

“No one should have to make the impossible choice between their job and their own health or the health of their loved ones,” she said.

Read: Children of Working Mothers More Likely to Lead Unhealthy Lifestyles

The majority of respondents would favor a law that would pay sick days for all workers, including those working part time hours. 86% favor a plan that would require a minimum of seven paid sick days per year, such as the bill introduced last year by Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro and the late Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The Healthy Families Act (HR 2460 and S.1152) would require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide workers with up to seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or a sick child or spouse.

In 2006, San Francisco became the first locality in the US to guarantee paid sick days for all of its workers. Washington DC and Milwaukee WI added sick day legislation in 2008. IN 2010, there are 24 states and cities that have either had bills introduced and/or have active campaigns.

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