Fear, lack of paid time off drive sick employees to work

Despite daily news coverage of the swine flu outbreak and reports of flu-related deaths, U.S. workers continue to show up for work sick, according to a recent poll.

The nationwide poll revealed that 71% of almost 12,000 U.S. workers who responded between May 11 and May 18, 2009, said they report to work even when feeling ill.

“Of those who go to work sick, 33 percent fear losing their job if they take a sick day, while 38 percent admit their workload is too busy to take a day off from work even when they are ill,” said Norma Gaffin, director of career content,, in a press release.

When asked “Do you go into work sick?” respondents answered:
  • Yes, work is too busy for me to miss a day: 38%
  • Yes, in this economy, I’m afraid I’ll lose my job: 33%
  • No, I work from home if I’m sick: 10%
  • No, I rest up to get better: 19%

Even if they wanted to, many workers can’t stay home when they’re sick. An estimated 57 million working Americans have no paid sick days. For these workers, staying home from work means losing pay or possibly losing their job.

"The problem has really come into sharp relief the past few days," said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, which has long pushed for paid sick leave. "Many people don't even realize that almost half the private sector — 48 percent — has no sick days, not even a single one."

"We have officials telling people to stay home when they're sick," she added. "Well, guess what? That can be the beginning of economic disaster for many, especially in this economy."

A 2008 study on sick leave found that 68% of workers without paid sick days had gone to work with a contagious illness like the flu or viral infection. Additionally, one in six workers reported that they or a family member had been fired, suspended, punished or threatened with firing after taking time off to care for themselves or a family member, according to the 2008 study by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

Currently, the U.S. is the only country out of the top 20 world economic powers with no federally mandated sick days. But that may be about to change.

On May 18, 2009, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460), which would let workers earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Those paid sick days could be used to care for themselves or a sick family member.

“As Congress works hard to pass quality, affordable healthcare for every American, they must make sure workers are able to do the things necessary to keep themselves and their families healthy. Paid sick days benefit both workers and employers, as there is substantial evidence that it improves productivity and the bottom line,” said DeLauro in her address to the House of Representatives last week.

Our legal team will continue to watch the Healthy Families Act and how the legislation may affect your business. Check back regularly for the most up-to-date information.

Do you still show up to work when sick? Why? Do you think the U.S. should have federally mandated paid sick leave? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

I think that this country should have federally mandated sick pay(leave) for every single working american. Johnny.


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