The United States is one of only 22 developed nations that doesn’t offer mandatory paid sick days to all workers. This means that workers often can’t afford to take time off when they’re ill, need to see the doctor, or have to care for a sick family member.
Some states and municipalities are changing those laws for themselves. Even more states added mandatory paid sick leave to the law books in the last election, and President Obama recently extended paid sick days to government contractors. But 36 percent of private-industry workers still have no paid sick leave, as of 2016.
Sick Leave Means Fewer Sick People
Remember when you couldn’t go to your favorite Chipotle in last winter because of some mystery illness contaminating the food? Yeah, that was a drag. Chipotle’s decision-makers even decided to mandate that workers stop coming to work if they felt ill, to help nip the germ-spreading in the bud.
Of course, you might say this is a no-brainer for the food service industry, but it’s a good policy no matter what line of work you’re in. Even if you only interact with your coworkers during the day, not the general public, it makes sense to keep germs at home where they can’t spread to others. If you don’t, and you go to work sick, before you know it, the whole office is sick.
It’s easier to stay home when you’re not losing a day’s pay or worrying about getting fired for absenteeism. That’s where paid sick days come in to play.
Good Mental Health
Paid sick leave not only helps people when they have germs to avoid, but also allows workers to go to the doctor for preventative care or mental health treatment, and other “hidden” illnesses too. Ever put off going to the doctor for your (now paid-for, thanks to Obamacare) annual physical or for a “minor” ailment, because you can’t make the time? You’re not alone. Even though many more Americans are now insured, it’s harder to go to the doctor if they don’t have paid time off.
Women Get the Short End of the Sick Stick
Since women are so often the caretakers, they may not take sick days even when they actually get ill. How often have you heard a working mother says that she can’t get sick, because she has to use her sick days for her kids? It’s not so great to be making on average 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, and still have to come to work sick.
Of course, if men and women had the same sick days, it might even out the gender roles a bit, giving women more career opportunities and a shot at equal pay. Read about the gender pay gap in PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap.
Tell Us What You Think
Does your employer offer paid sick leave (or not)? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.