This year’s unusually bad flu season is adding fuel to the fight for paid sick days.
It’s welcome news that this conversation is happening, but it is long overdue. According to the AP (via AOL Jobs), 40 million Americans lack mandatory paid sick days. New York City is a flashpoint in this debate; pressure is mounting for City Council to vote on Councilwoman Gail Brewer’s Paid Sick Days Act. As the Daily News reported, “the proposed legislation would require businesses with more than 20 employees to give nine days of paid sick leave a year and five days for employers with fewer than 20 workers.”
For workers already under the pressure of a weak economy, time off is precious. According to CBS, 52 percent of Americans have used sick days to cope with stress. In this environment, workers are dangerously likely to show up to the office while ill and contagious. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 could have been less severe if more employees had paid sick days. Treating workers humanely also boosts the bottom line for business owners; according to the same paper, sick employees who force themselves into the office reduce productivity by $180 billion a year (NPWF paper via Yahoo!).
This is the worst time of the year for illness interfering with work; in the U.K., the first Monday in February sees the highest number of workers stay home sick.
If New York City makes paid sick days law, it will be far better prepared to weather all future seasons of illness. The AP reported that “employees without sick days are more likely to go to work with a contagious illness, send an ill child to school or day care and use hospital emergency rooms for care, according to a 2010 survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.”