Workers without paid sick leave spread H1N1, report says

February 18, 2010

Eight million people infected with the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009 went to work because they did not have paid sick days, allowing the pandemic to spread to 7 million co-workers, according to a paper released this month by the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data, the paper stated 40 percent of private-sector workers do not have paid sick day coverage, while almost all federal workers and about 89 percent of state and local government workers receive paid sick days. Public workers were more likely to stay home when infected with the H1N1 flu virus compared with private-sector workers, the paper noted.

The paper's authors suggested flu pandemics could be resolved quicker if private-sector employees had paid sick leave coverage at the near-universal level seen in the public sector.