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Sick at Work

By Nancy Folbre
New York Times Economix Blog

"The Healthy Families Act that got a bit of traction in Congress last spring would create a new national standard, guaranteeing employees one paid hour off for each 30 hours worked and enabling them to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Workers would be entitled to claim their days when they or a child, a parent, a spouse or someone else close to them became ill.

Like mandated health insurance, mandated paid sick leave would cost money. Employers could pass on costs to employees in the form of lower wages. But, also like health insurance, paid sick leave could save money by improving health.

Evidence for this argument is presented in a briefing paper just published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research analyzing the effects of the H1N1 epidemic last fall.

About 26 million employed Americans 18 and over were probably infected with H1N1 between September and November 2009 — about 20 percent of all nonfarm employees.

Almost 18 million employees took at least part of a week off. The other eight million didn’t."

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