EPST – 10_16_14

Our
Commonwealth has worked hard to create a strong health care system
that can give all of our people the opportunity to thrive and
contribute productively to our economy. Yet for many working people,
there are still barriers that keep them from leading healthy lives.
Currently, Massachusetts does not have a statewide earned paid sick
time law, which would give employees time off to address pressing
health issues. The absence of this workplace flexibility means that
many workers cannot take the time off when sick, putting them at risk
of not only losing their job or a days’ pay but also
prolonging an illness or infecting others. This brief takes a look at
earned paid sick time and its effects on public health.

In Massachusetts, about 1 in 3 workers do not have earned paid sick
time. And the least likely to have it are those working in industries
that require frequent contact with the public such as the service
sector.  In fact, over half
of workers in the service sector, which includes food and child care
workers, do not have earned paid sick time. And about one-third of
sales and office workers, such as cashiers and retail workers, do not
have any paid sick days. (For more see: Earned
Paid Sick Time
– Frequently Asked Questions
).

image1

Workers with earned paid sick time
report better overall health because
they can take time off to address a health issue or access preventive
care without risking losing their job or wages.1
But these
benefits go beyond the individual health outcomes of workers. It is
also important to consider the effects of not having access to earned
paid sick time on the general public, families, and the workplace.

The
Effects on the General Public When Workers Go to Work Sick

Workers without earned paid sick time are more likely to go to work
when they are sick.2
In jobs that require frequent contact
with the public, such as food and retail jobs, illness is more likely
to spread if people report to work sick.3
This not only puts
workers and co-workers at risk but also customers and the general
public. For instance, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the risk of
getting the flu was heightened due to the absence of workplace
standards like earned paid sick time.4
This lack of protection
hampered workers’ abilities to rest and recuperate after the
infectious disease had developed.5
In fact, the data suggests
that during this period, workers in the private sector, where earned
paid sick time is less common than in the public sector, were more
likely to go to work sick with H1N1.6

The
Effects on Sick Children When Parents Cannot Get Time Off to Care
for Them

Parents are more likely to send their child to school sick and seek
medical treatment at an emergency room if they cannot get time off
during normal business hours, when most doctors’ offices are
open.7
This risks the child’s health as well as the
health of classmates and teachers. In fact, about 1.3 million hospital
emergency room visits could be prevented each year in the United States
by providing earned paid sick time to those who currently lack
access.8
(See: Balancing
Work and Family: The Economic Effects
of Earned Paid Sick Time
).

The
Effects on the Workplace When Employees Come to Work Sick

The Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that
people with the flu stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever
subsides.9
Yet, when employees do not have earned paid sick
time, they are more likely to come to work ill before fully
recovering.10
This affects workers because it delays recovery
and increases complications from minor health problems, potentially
placing additional burdens onto our health care system.11
Furthermore, this increases the risk of accidents and spreading
illnesses to co-workers, all of which drives up the
employer’s health insurance costs.12
In fact, the
cost of people coming into work sick each year in the U.S. is estimated
at $160 billion.13

1
Miller, K., Williams, C. & Yi, Y. (2011, October
31). Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency
Department Visits. Institute for Women’s Policy Research: 9
http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/paid-sick-days-and-health-cost-savings-from-reduced-emergency-department-visits 

2
Drago, R. & Miller K (2010) Sick at Work: Infected
Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic. Institute for
Women’s Policy Research: 2
http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/sick-at-work-infected-employees-in-the-workplace-during-the-h1n1-pandemic

3
Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress. (2010,
March). Expanding Access to Paid Sick Leave: The Impact of the Healthy
Families Act on America’s Workers.
http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=abf8aca7-6b94-4152-b720-2d8d04b81ed6

4
Kumar S, Quinn SC, Kim KH, Daniel LH, Freimuth VS (2011) The
Impact of Workplace Policies and Other Social Factors on Self-Reported
Influenza-Like Illness Incidence During the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic.
American Journal of Public Health 102: 134

5
  Ibid., 134.

6
Drago, R. & Miller K (2010) Sick at Work: Infected
Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic. Institute for
Women’s Policy Research: 1
http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/sick-at-work-infected-employees-in-the-workplace-during-the-h1n1-pandemic

7
Miller, K. & Williams, C. (2012) Paid Sick Days in
Massachusetts Would Lower Health Care Costs by Reducing Unnecessary
Emergency Department Visits. Institute for Women’s Policy
Research: 1
http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/paid-sick-days-in-massachusetts-would-lower-health-care-costs-by-reducing-unnecessary-emergency-department-visits

8
Miller, K., Williams, C. & Yi, Y. (2011, October
31). Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency
Department Visits. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.:
iii
http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/paid-sick-days-and-health-cost-savings-from-reduced-emergency-department-visits

9
Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (2014) The Flu:
What To Do If You Get Sick.
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm#howlong

10
Farrell, J. (2012) Myth vs. Fact: Paid Sick Days. Center for
American Progress.
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/11/16/45152/myth-vs-fact-paid-sick-days/

11
O’Leary, A (2012) Testimony before a Joint Session
of the Washington State Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer
Protection and House Labor and Workforce Development Committees.
Economic Policy Institute: 5
http://www.eoionline.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/family-leave-insurance/Testimony-AOLeary-Feb13.pdf

12
Scheil-Adlung, X. & Sandner, L. ( 2010) The Case for
Paid Sick Leave. World Health Report, Background Paper, #9. World
Health Organization: 4, 6, 18
http://www.who.int/healthsystems/topics/financing/healthreport/SickleaveNo9FINAL.pdf

13
Farrell, J. (2012) Myth vs. Fact: Paid Sick Days. Center for
American Progress.
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/11/16/45152/myth-vs-fact-paid-sick-days/

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