Flu Rate Would Decline Significantly If The U.S. Mandated Paid Sick Leave

Here’s an incredibly compelling reason for the United States to pass a paid sick leave law: If we did, flu rates in the country would decrease by at least 5 percent, estimates a new working paper from economists at Cornell and the Swiss Economic Institute.

“When you mandate paid sick leave, infection rates go down,” Nicolas R. Ziebarth, the Cornell economist who co-authored the paper, told The Huffington Post. “You have less people going to work sick, spreading diseases.”

Opponents of government-mandated leave like to say that forcing companies to pay workers when they’re ill is a “job killer.” There’s little evidence to support that notion. Still, this study offers an even more striking counterargument. Failing to give workers time off when they’re sick may actually be a people killer.

Thousands of Americans die every year from the flu, according to the CDC. The agency recommends that people stay home when they’re sick with the flu, but doesn’t have a recommendation on sick leave policy, a CDC rep told HuffPost.

About 5-20 percent of Americans get the flu each year, costing the country about $87 billion annually, according to estimates cited by the CDC. The agency recommends the flu vaccine as the first and best way to prevent the flu.

Yet the U.S. stubbornly refuses to pass a paid sick leave law. We are the only wealthy nation in the world that does not mandate any form of paid sick time, instead leaving it up to employers. Only 53 percent of workers get paid sick leave, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by the White House, which is pushing for a law.

Ziebarth and his co-author looked at flu rates in the seven U.S. cities that recently implemented paid sick leave laws. Rates of —> Read More