The best way to stop the spread of disease is to stay home from work when you're ill. That isn't always an option for workers in the United States. Many employees do not have sick days.
As many as 43 per cent of United States residents working in private industry have to make due without paid sick days according to data from the federal government. Being sick means loss of pay and at times being fired.
More companies are cutting back on sick days offered to their workers. Some companies have put sick days and vacation time in the same basket while others have eliminated them completely. Unlike other industrialized countries the U.S. does not have a mandate when it comes to their residents being paid for time off work due to illness.
"Sick time is changing," said Kim Stattner, an expert on absence management for Hewitt Associates, an international company that provides human resources programs and consulting. "The practices and designs are not as generous as they once were."
Some states, though, have started to support labor organizations and health officials. California recently sent a bill titled Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces (AB 2716) that would give employees in the state paid sick time to the Senate. If passed, employees will earn an hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. Ohio also shows promise in passing laws to ensure employees can stay home when ill and not fear a loss of wages.
San Francisco has already enacted the sick leave legislation on the blocks for the rest of the state. After three months employees are covered. In the nation's capitol employers are also required to grant employees three to seven days a year for time off when ill after being on the job for a year.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn. are trying to pass a bill that would bring the United States up to date like 135 developed countries that require employees to give sick leave to full time employees. The bill, Healthy Families Act, would require businesses with over 15 employees to give their staff at least 7 paid sick days a year.
"The public supports it," said Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment who has studied the proposed laws. "In San Francisco, the law was so popular that the people who were opposed to it didn't even mount a challenge. Paid sick time is a human need that is self-evident."