Consumer Comeback Blog

What Happens When You Can’t Afford to Be Sick?

It’s inevitable— the day you feel the scratchy throat, fever, and body aches, is the day you can least afford to miss work.

Sometimes sick days come at the worst times, but for 40% of the American workforce, paid sick days don’t come at all, reported The Nation’s Health
website. People whose employers do not provide sick pay not only lose wages during illness, they may also at risk of losing their jobs.

Working while sick has obvious disadvantages, loss of productivity, spreading disease, and in some professions, putting yourself and others at risk of injury and loss of property.

Americans are under increasing pressure – both financial and social – to cling to employment by working through their illnesses. Coupled with the prevalence of unemployed and uninsured Americans, lack of sick pay gives people less motivation to take charge of their health. According to a U.S. Census Health Status, Health Insurance and Medical Service Utilization study, Americans visited the doctor, dentists and less often in 2011.

A National Partnership for Women and Families study indicates that the annual loss of productivity that occurs when working through an illness adds up to $160 billion nationally. Hiring new employees can add up to 25 -to 200% of compensation costs.

A study by the Center for Disease Control shows that employees with paid sick leave have 28% less work-related injuries. Healthcare and construction workers are particularly at risk of injuring themselves at work if they are suffering from side effects of illness or medication.

This health issue has come to the forefront of the political sphere as cities have shown their support for mandatory sick pay. San Francisco passed a law in 2007 that allowed workers to accumulate an hour of paid leave for every 30 hours of paid work. Seattle, Washington D.C. Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Miami, and Orange County, Fla. have similar laws.

Connecticut was the first state to approves mandatory sick leave requirement, and State Representative Rosa DeLauro has tried to take the issue to the national stage by introducing a bill in the House of Representatives six times, but none have made it to the floor of Congress for a vote.