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Paid sick days: A public-health imperative


I live in a small house with eight friends, six chickens and a puppy. When one of us gets sick, many others follow suit. (So far, we've avoided any cross-species bugs.)

Over the last few weeks, a nasty cold made the rounds, prompting an informal discussion about when it's appropriate to miss work: If you're not feeling well, is it best for some general good to stay home or trudge to the office, red nose and handkerchief in tow?

That question, of course, assumes an individual has the luxury of considering the greater good. Unfortunately, one-third of U.S. workers (link to .pdf) don't have paid sick leave - and that's a situation that MomsRising would like to see remedied.

Over the last few weeks, the online grassroots organization has hosted a blogging event on the need for a national paid sick days policy. Thirty posts written by policy analysts, members of Congress, and yes, moms, provide the rationale - in economic, public health and social justice terms. Economist Robert Drago, PhD, argues:

Research suggest that lost working time for employees who either have colds themselves or stay at home to care for children with colds costs the economy $20b in lost output per year. This estimation demonstrates a shortsighted approach to contagious diseases that also afflicts many employers: they recognize that an ill employee at work is more productive than the same ill employee at home (excepting telecommuters), while ignoring the fact that the productivity of other employees suffers as a disease spreads.

Not convinced? Try this more visceral argument from Tasha West-Baker, a mother of three and Safeway cashier:

There have been many times when I have come to work with a cold and even something as serve as bronchitis, I have come to work with fevers and stomach virus, as you can imagine this is not the image you want of the person handling your produce, your morning cup of coffee, your deli made sandwich, or the money that they count back to you as change. I assure you, when we come to work sick like this it is not our desire to spread our germs or make anyone else sick.

The posts form a refreshingly holistic argument for a change in national policy, and they're well worth the read.

Photo by @thewtb

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