All around us, people are coming down with the flu – and the Centers for Disease Control warn that it could be the worst flu season in ten years. And to make matters worse, our national workplace policies are helping to spread the flu. Despite the CDC recommending people “stay home and avoid contact with other people,” most workers don’t have that option, as the United States is the only developed country that doesn’t guaranteed paid sick days to its workers.
As a result, 40% of private sector workers and 80% of low-income workers don’t get any paid sick days. In the food industry, where the chances of the flu spreading are highest, 79% of workers say they receive no paid sick leave. Our lack of protections for workers is directly responsible for more flu illnesses around the nation. As a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found, there were as many as 5 million additional cases of the H1N1 flu in 2009, due to a lack of paid sick time.
The National Partnership for Women and Families noted, paid sick days don’t just benefit workers, but businesses and the economy as well:
Replacing workers can cost anywhere from 25 to 200 percent of annual compensation. Paid sick days result in reduced turnover, which leads to reduced costs incurred from advertising, interviewing and training new hires. This is particularly important in lower-wage industries where turnover is highest. Employers also reap the benefits of greater worker loyalty. Paid sick days help to decrease the productivity lost when employees work sick – known as “presenteeism” – which is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually, surpassing the cost of absenteeism. The majority of human resources executives agree that presenteeism is a problem because of potential productivity loss and the risk of spreading infection.
For an average family, “missing work for just three-and-a-half days results in lost wages equivalent to an entire month’s grocery bill.” Paid sick days guard against that outcome, while ensuring that businesses stay productive.
Giving workers what they have earned – which is paid sick days – isn’t about workers’ rights. It’s about national security, and saving millions of Americans from needlessly contracting the flu when they dine out or go to the grocery store. Unfortunately, the billionaire class running Corporate America has squeezed every bit of profit they can from their workers – denying them union representation, healthcare, and paid vacations and sick leave.
This is insanity – and we should protest with our wallets and pocketbooks. Before dining out, call the restaurant and ask if they offer paid sick days to their employees. If not, then eat there at your own risk. Caveat emptor.
Sources: Louise Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2013/01/would-you-side-flu-your-orderPat Garofolo at http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/01/10/1430981/worst-flu-season-paid-sick-days/?mobile=nc