Weak leave policies hinder efforts to contain H1N1; Paid sick leave legislation proposed

dreamstime_4714415-flu season working woman

Around 51 million people, comprising a third of the U.S. workforce, do not have paid sick days.  Hence, staying home from work is not an option for many Americans in the event H1N1 strikes.

An ailing economy, in conjunction with weak sick leave policies are fueling concerns about the spread of H1N1 virus. In a recent nationwide survey, 84% of workers reported feeling pressured to come to work sick because of the recession. Workers in retail and restaurant sectors say their corporate policies discourage them from calling in sick.

Despite administration appeals for “flexible and nonpunitive” sick leave policies, workers without paid sick leave have been penalized for absences. The “current system”, according to recent congressional testimony from Deputy Secretary of Labor, “forces too many sick workers to go to work and too many working parents to send sick children to school and day care.”

Against this backdrop, Congress has proposed emergency legislation that would provide five or seven days of paid sick leave for companies employing 15 or more persons. Although such measures would be temporary, small business advocates are opposed to any legislative mandate, and consider the proposed congressional measures “expensive and unnecessary.”

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AFP: No paid sick leave hampers US swine flu battle
BLS: Employee Benefits in the United States news release text
CNN: Obama administration urges employer flexibility in H1N1 fight
LA Times: For many ill with the flu, staying home isn’t an option
Mansfield Communications: Over 90% of fellow employees do not want you to come to work with any H1N1 flu symptoms, New York – October 20, 2009
NY Times: Lack of Paid Sick Days May Worsen Flu Pandemic
WM: Dodd, DeLauro to Offer Emergency H1N1 Sick Days Bill
WSJ: House Bill Introduced to Require Paid Sick Leave for H1N1 Cases

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