A lot of employees in Kansas City have a limited amount of sick time available to them for when they catch the common cold or wake up with the flu. During flu season this time doesn’t always cover every single day that they are sick, but it at least provides them with some wiggle room to determine whether they are too sick to go to work and save their co-workers from exposure.
Even with the provided sick time, many employees fear that their absence will add another factor to performance records that could lead to job loss. Another 40 million workers — or 40 percent of the private sector — don’t even have that option. These individuals have no paid sick leave at all. They must make the choice of calling in sick without pay, begging another employee to switch shifts or go to work and fight through it. Many are taking this last option, and advocates for mandatory sick leave say that things need to change.
This year the flu season has proved even more serious than usual. The particular strain of influenza going around the country has already claimed the life of several dozen adults and a number of children. The advocates for mandatory sick leave say that the debate is a matter of public health. Workers who feel forced to choose between their jobs or their health are not only putting themselves at risk but helping add to the outbreak. The advocates are asking that even independent contractors, minimum-wage and other hourly workers are given mandatory sick time that would benefit everyone.
Others are not so quick to agree, many of them employers who feel like mandatory sick time is something that they can’t begin to factor into their budgets during the current economy. Small business owners say that it is a burden they simply can’t afford to shoulder. Others say that the recent natural disasters have put their businesses in “survival mode.”
The American Journal of Public Health published a study in the year 2011 that talked about how the failure to provide sick time helps spread the flu. This study was based on the 2009 swine flu outbreak that spread across the United States with approximately 5 million reported cases — a number that the study said could have been much smaller if sick time had been more available.
Source: News-Journal, “Flu season spreads debate over mandatory sick time,” Jennifer Peltz, Jan. 20, 2013
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