Speaking of sick days…

February 27th, 2007

sick dayLast week Charlene asked how freelancers deal with sick days. (Answer here.) If you think self-employed people are the only working stiffs who have it rough when they’re sick, you probably didn’t see the ABC news report on Friday about how 59 million U.S. workers have no paid sick days and 86 million get no paid days off to care for a sick kid. A juicy nugget from the piece:

Of the 20 most competitive economies in the world, according to research by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. is the only one not to require businesses to provide paid sick days.

What’s more, according to this NewStandard report, the shortage of sick days hurts women the most and hits part-time workers the hardest, given that only one in six of them gets paid sick days. Behold:

The [Kaiser Family] Foundation found that 49 percent of working mothers report they must miss work when a child is sick with a common illness, compared to 30 percent of men, and half of working mothers do not get paid time off spent caring for a sick child.

None of this is surprising, given our country’s crappy work-life balance offerings. The good news is that change is afoot. San Francisco now requires businesses to grant paid sick days, and according to ABC news, “similar bills are pending in Madison, Wisconsin, and in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont.” Congress is even holding hearings on a federal mandate for paid sick days.

What do you think? Have you ever gone to work with a fever or brought a sick child to work because you needed the cash? Should smaller businesses that squawk that paid sick days hurt their bottom line be bitch-slapped? Should the government foot the bill for workers who have the flu? Do tell.

Entry Filed under: Balance,Overworked and underpaid,Working moms

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laura  |  February 27th, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Wow, stuff like this makes me glad I live in Canada. What I don’t get is, how do your corporations not clue in that if they don’t pay their workers for sick days, then they’ll come to work because they need the money, and they’ll get everyone else sick? Then what happens to productivity? I believe it’s more cost-effective in the end for a company to pay sick days and then one person can stay home while sick, miss maybe 3-4 days of work. They’ll be productive when they return because they are healthy again, and nobody else will miss work or lose productivity as a result of sickness that has been passed on to them

  • 2. Sabrina  |  February 27th, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Well, I do get paid days off work, and a good amount, for the US anyway. :) But there’s no difference between Vacation and Sick time. That amounts to people coming in when they are sick because they don’t want to “waste” vacation time. I know I do it. It’s especially stinging since we used to have separate sick time and it was “combined” a few years ago. And by combined I mean reduced.

  • 3. Lynne  |  February 28th, 2007 at 7:27 am

    The combined sick/vacation time effectively prevents me from planning vacations, so I work until I’m burnt out and – you got it – sick.

  • 4. Anne  |  February 28th, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Laura – It does work the way you imagine. Productivity decreases and stress increases as you watch the virus snake its way through the office, taking down your co-workers one at a time until it finally reaches you.
    At my ex-job, I was fortunate enough to get separate sick and vacation time, but, if you used what was considered too many of your sick days (7 out of 10, for example) you got THE MEMO suggesting you might have excessive absences and therefore decreased productivity. So, people ended up taking personal vacation time or coming to work sick to avoid having THE MEMO in their file. Corporations tend to not trust their workers when it comes to sick leave policies, thus the above mess.

  • 5. Michelle Goodman  |  February 28th, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    wow, all of this is disconcerting, though not surprising. and that MEMO shit is scary. (!) in the (U.S.) work situations you all describe, employees seem to only have it moderately better than self-employed types. yes, employees get more paid days off, but in return they get MEMOS from management and exposure to extra germs. yay.

    thanks for sharing your tales of worklife woe, everyone.

  • 6. Erin Blaskie  |  March 8th, 2007 at 1:01 am

    Being self-employed, I don’t get paid for sick days BUT I do have one contract at the moment that is a set rate every month regardless of whether I am in the office working each day or not. I suppose this allows me to feel a bit better about sick days but what scares me even more is the thought of someday needing maternity leave… :)

    Erin Blaskie

  • 7. Michelle Goodman  |  March 9th, 2007 at 7:22 am

    ooooh, the ‘ole retainer arrangement. nice, erin!

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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