NASHVILLE, Tenn. - More than half of employees without paid sick days say they have gone to work even when they knew they were contagious, according to a new survey on paid sick leave sponsored by the Public Welfare Foundation. The same survey found that 75 percent of respondents think that is wrong, and they support paid sick days as a basic workers' right.
Deborah Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, says recognition is growing that paid sick leave benefits employers, as well as employees.
"It reduces the spread of contagion, it improves productivity and employee loyalty and retention, and it reduces the costs associated with hiring and training replacement workers."
The National Federation of Independent Businesses disagrees and has lobbied against such policies proposed at national, state and local levels, saying the requirement would lead to higher expenses for employers and, thus, layoffs.
In 2007, San Francisco passed a law requiring paid sick time not only for employees who are unwell, but for employees who need to take time off to care for a sick child or other relative. Ness says predictions that the area would see massive layoffs as a result did not materialize.
"Not only is it working, but employment in San Francisco remains stronger than in neighboring counties that do not guarantee paid sick days, even through this recession."
Another discovery in the poll: People without paid sick days were twice as likely as those with paid sick time to use emergency rooms. That was because they were unable to take time off work to see doctors during their job hours.
Ness says paid sick days are relevant to successful health care reform.
"As we implement health care reform with all its focus on prevention, we should all remember that hard-working people need time - without losing pay or losing their jobs - to recover from illness and get the health care they need."
The survey, funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, was conducted this spring by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The complete results are available at www.publicwelfare.org.