Up to two percent (three million) of the American population still heads to work despite being sick. The reasoning behind this lies in the absence of paid sick leave, essentially forcing sick individuals to attend work even when under the weather. The findings come from a review of data from the 2011 Leave Supplement of the American Time Use Survey.
The review revealed 65 percent of full-time employees do receive sick leave pay, but coverage pay was low – at around 20 percent for hourly wage employees below $10/hour, part-time employees, and employees in the hospitality or leisure industries. Those most likely to go into work while sick were females, low-income earners, and employees aged 25 to 34.
Coauthor Dr. Nicolas Ziebarth said, “Particularly employees in the low-wage sector lack access to paid sick leave, and many of those employees work sick and spread diseases. Mandating access to paid sick leave and changing the sick leave culture would help to reduce the number of employees working sick.”
An alternative recent review also suggested that more paid sick leave days would not only help improve the health of the individual but the family as a whole. Coauthor Patricia Stoddard-Dare said, “These findings are a big deal. Paid sick leave should be thought of as a major public health issue.”
The review uncovered that those without paid sick leave were more likely to delay medical care – as well as forgo medical treatment for their family members – because of the associated costs. Also, those without paid sick leave were likely to have visited an emergency room recently.
Lead author LeaAnne DeRigne suggested, “Delaying or forgoing needed medical care can lead to more complicated, disabling, and expensive health conditions.”
Furthermore, those who head to work sick create a higher risk of sickening others around them as well.
Researchers suggests that more studies need to be conducted to reveal that taking sick days boosts employee engagement and prevents infectious disease and accidents in order to have higher influence on policymakers.