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New Research Links Lack of Paid Sick Days to H1N1

Millions of Americans Caught Swine Flu from Ill Co-Workers

A new study published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) draws a connection between the lack of paid sick days and the spread of H1N1, the so-called “swine flu’ virus.

The report, “Sick at Work: Infected Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic” made the following findings:

• An estimated 8 million American employees came to work while infected with H1N1.
• An estimated 7 million people contracted the illness from a sick co-worker.
• The study suggests workers without paid sick days were far more likely to come to work while infect with H1N1.

At the start of the H1N1 outbreak, which was responsible for the death of 24 Connecticut residents, public health officials, as well as Governor Rell and President Obama urged people to stay home if they caught H1N1. But as the new study reveals, many workers couldn’t follow that advice.

“This study seems to reinforce our impression that when employees lack paid sick days they go to work sick,” said Dr. Bruce Gould, Associate Dean for Primary Care, UCONN School of Medicine and Medical Director at the Bergdorf Medical Center and Medical Director, City of Hartford Department of Health and Human Services. “This spreads disease to co-workers and the public. It is a serious public health threat. We shouldn’t wait until the next pandemic to make sure employees have the ability to stay home when they are sick.”

“It’s no surprise Wal-Mart and McDonalds would jeopardize our health for the sake of a few extra pennies, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Lindsay Farrell, legislative director of CT Working Families. “This study should be a wake up call to legislators. It’s naïve to think people aren’t forced to come to work sick every day, especially in this economy.”

A bill that would create a basic workplace standard for paid sick days has recently been introduced by the Labor Committee. The bill, SB 63, would allow workers at business with more than 50 employees to earn paid sick time – up to 5 days per year. A similar bill passed in the House of Representatives last year.