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Report: Employees without Paid Sick Days May Be a Hazard to All

Workers without sick-leave benefits, including families with children, are twice as likely to delay health-care treatment. (Virginia Carter)
Workers without sick-leave benefits, including families with children, are twice as likely to delay health-care treatment. (Virginia Carter)
March 24, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It's a dilemma faced by working families in Arkansas and across the nation – what to do about work when someone is sick – and a new report finds the decision has consequences for everyone.

People were sickened by eating at the popular chain Chipotle's after employees who were ill continued coming to work. The company blamed the norovirus outbreak on those workers.

Report author LeaAnne DeRigne, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, says the United States lags behind 22 other countries that make employers provide paid sick days.

"What research has shown is workers with paid sick leave who are able to recuperate are actually more productive than workers who are on the job ill," DeRigne says. "We're really starting to see where it makes business sense to give your employees paid sick leave."

The report found families without sick-leave benefits, including those with children, are twice as likely to delay health-care treatment.

DeRigne says timely care is important for making sure conditions don't get worse and end up costing a lot more than a day's wages.

Only four states, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon, require employers to offer paid sick benefits. DeRigne says that leaves 49 million workers without sick days.

She says when workers in jobs dealing with the public, such as food service, child care, retail and others, show up to work sick, it can create public health issues.

"We don't want people serving us burritos who have the flu," says DeRigne. "And if you're going to pick up a bowl of soup somewhere, you really hope the person who made that is not ill at work. We want them home, self-quarantining, so that we're not all passing germs to one another."

She says keeping sick kids out of school helps keep other kids from getting sick, so workers need paid time off to stay home with children.

The study found people in low-wage jobs without benefits are most vulnerable, and workers who are ill also are more prone to injuries and mistakes.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR