Health and Safety

Paid Sick Leave Cuts Health Care Costs

July 18, 2011

Reprint, AFL-CIO Blog July 12, 2011
If the nation’s workers had access to paid sick days today, 44 million workers don’t it would mean a dramatic  drop in hospital emergency room visits and save about $1 billion a year in health care costs, according to a new study due to be released this week.

The report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) says paid sick days are associated with better self-reported health, fewer delays in medical care and fewer emergency department visits for adults and their children. Says IWPR Research Director Robert Drago:

We have known for decades that individuals without health insurance are more likely to use costly emergency room services. This study establishes that, regardless of whether someone has health insurance, having the flexibility provided by paid sick days reduces use of emergency departments.

The report finds that workers with access to paid sick days have an easier time getting to a doctor during normal business hours to care for themselves or family members. Access to paid sick days can help to decrease the likelihood that a worker will put off needed care and increases rates of preventive care among workers and their children.

In other news on paid sick days, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told a forum, sponsored by the National Partnership for Women and Families and the coalition Family Values @ Work, that the lack of paid sick leave disproportionately impacts low-income workers.

More than two-thirds of workers who earn some $10 an hour do not have access to paid sick days but eight out of 10 workers making more than $25 an hour are covered by paid sick leave. The choice between a worker’s health or paycheck can mean the difference between having food on the table or not.

Many people can’t afford to stay at home without pay because they are living on the margin. Certainly we know three days off the job to recover from a flu could mean a month’s [worth of] groceries for some people.

Earlier this month Connecticut became the first state in the nation to have a law requiring employers to provide paid sick days, and efforts to pass similar legislation are under way in several cities and states, including Denver, Seattle, New York City, Massachusetts and Georgia. Only two cities in the nation, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have paid sick day laws.

On the national level, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have  introduced the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460 and S. 1152), which would require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide workers with up to seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or a sick child or spouse.

A recent survey by the Public Welfare Foundation found three-quarters of Americans say paid sick leave should be a “basic workers’ right” and Congress should pass legislation that guarantees workers paid sick leave.

July 17, 2011

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