Paid Sick Leave

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A guest blog entry from Jeanie Holt, NHPHA Policy Committee Co-Chair

HB600: ". . .workers in New Hampshire can address their own health and safety needs and the health and safety needs of their families by requiring employers to provide a minimum level of paid sick and safe days including time for family care. . ."

I am in a check-out line at a store I shall not name.  As I place my tiems on the counter, the cashier couged, covering her cough with her hand. Then she picked up my first item. . .

One can view paid sick leave from several differnt perspectives.  For public health, paid sick leave is an important tool in limiting the spread of disease.  I suspect others have had similar experiences to mine.  People who come to work sick put all of us at risk.

A 2010 national survey of more than 4,300 restaurant workers, 88% of the respondents reported not having paid sick leave and 63% admitted that they cooked and served food while sick.1  Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Drago and Millerestimated that infected imployees who reported to work caused the infection of an additional 7 million peole during the 209 H1N1 pandemic.  Other researchers interviewed a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults and found that workplace policies such as lack of paid sick leave were correlated with higher incidence of influenza-like illness.  This study estimated 5 million additional cases of influenza-like illness in the U.S. population owing to the absence of workplace policies such as paid sick leave3.  A study that modeled influenza epidemic scenarios showed that universal paid sick days reduced workplace infections by 6%4.  Clearly, lack of paid sick days puts all of us at greater risk for contagious illnesses inlcuding the flu.

From an economic point of view, paid sick leave can be a burden for businesses and employers who will be required to pay employees who are not at work, generating income.  Even from this perspective, however, employees working sick are likely to be less productive.  And sick workers infecting other employees prolongs this diminished productivity and the resulting loss of income for the business.  Paid sick leave makes sense for keeping our communities healthy and our workforce productive.

The house hears this bill on Thursday; another opportunity for you to take action by attending the hearing, testifying on this bill, and/or writing to your state representative.  

  1. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.  Serving while sick: high risk and low benefits for the nation's restaruant workforce, and their implact on the consumer.  Serving While Sick
  2. Drago R. Miller K. Sick at Work: infected employees in the workplace during the HINI epidemic.  Sick At Work
  3. Kumar S. Quinn SC, Kim KH, Daniel LH, Freimuth VS.  The impact of workplace policies and othe rsocial factors on self-reported influenza-like illness incidence during the 2009 HINI pandemic.  Am J Public Health.  2013; 102(1):134-140.
  4. Kumar S. Grefenstette J. Galloway D. Albert SM, Burke DS.  Polices to reduce influenza in the workplace; impact assessmetns using an agent-based model.  Am. J Public Health. 2013; 103(8); 1406-1411.                                                                                           

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