Flu Epidemic: One In Three American Workers Has No Paid Sick Leave, Contributes To Spread Of Disease

While the nation’s “flu epidemic” has spread to over 40 states, thousands of Americans are trudging to work with cold and flu symptoms instead of staying home and keeping the spreadable disease to themselves. Why? Because one in three Americans do not have the luxury of taking a paid sick day.

An estimated 41.7 million workers in America cannot take paid sick days, which means that nearly a third of the nation’s work force has the potential to raise health risks for the entire population.

This season’s “flu epidemic” has spread to 41 states thus far, but worker who have no paid sick leave are forced to head to work despite symptoms, or suffer the consequences. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that an additional 5 million people “became infected with flu symptoms in 2009 alone due to workplace policies, such as lack of paid sick leave,” according to CNN.

While most employees with full-time jobs have the benefit of paid sick leave, only a small percent of part-time employees enjoy the same benefit. There are also millions of self-employed workers, for which staying home sick means losing an entire day of business.

CNN reports that though providing paid sick leave may seem expensive for employers, not giving employees paid sick days is also costly. The Centers for Disease Controls estimates that a typical flu season generally costs businesses about $10.4 billion in hospitalization and outpatient costs for adults.

Adult employees aren’t the only ones affected by lack of paid sick leave. Employees with sick children often cannot miss work due to lack of paid leave, and therefore feel forced to send their children to school or daycare, even then they show cold and flu symptoms.

Many part-time employees also pose hazards for the general public. According to Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, notes that 80 percent of food-service workers do not have paid sick days, and can easily spread disease to customers when they attend work while ill. The Inquisitr reports that, not only do many food service establishments deny their employees healthcare, but many employers do not inform their employees about health benefits that they do indeed have the right to use.

Boushey adds that the US is the only developed country without a law that guarantees employees the right to paid sick leave, noting that many undeveloped nations have laws protecting employees rights to paid sick days.

Do you think that part of the flu epidemic is people going to work sick?