Sunday, May 27, 2007




PROGRESS REPORT - As summer approaches, many Americans are thinking
about vacation plans. But unfortunately, nearly one in four Americans
receive no paid vacation or holiday time. Even worse, nearly "half of
all full-time private sector workers in the U.S. get no paid sick days,"
with low-income workers, parents, and people with chronic illnesses hit
the hardest. Businesses also suffer in productivity and other workers
face health risks when sick employees are forced to go to work. The
American public overwhelmingly agrees that all workers deserve days off
from work; 95 percent of workers believe it is "unacceptable" for
employers to deny sick days.
For many Americans, getting sick may mean getting fired. "At least 145
countries have paid sick days," notes Public Welfare Foundation
president Debra Leff. "The United States is the only industrialized
country lacking such a policy." The situation is the worst for the
nation's lowest wage earners, 80 percent of whom receive no sick days.
Food service workers, who are in constant contact with the public, are
also among the least likely to receive paid sick days. New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert wrote recently, "Eighty-six percent get no sick
days at all. They show up in the restaurants coughing and sneezing and
feverish, and they start preparing and serving meals. You won't see many
of them wearing masks." Similarly, 55 percent of retail workers and 29
percent of health care and social assistance workers receive no paid
sick days. Additionally, workers "who do not have paid sick days for
doctors' visits do not have the opportunity to get important preventive
care, such as flu shots and vaccinations." A study by the Institute for
Women's Policy Research finds that 40 percent of workers "report having
contracted the flu from a colleague." "The lack of paid sick days isn't
just a family issue -- it's also a public health issue," Kennedy said.
"When sick people go to work or sick children go to school, they infect
their coworkers or fellow students and the public as well."

Children also suffer when employers do not provide paid sick leave. Just
one in three workers receive paid sick days to care for a child, meaning
parents are forced to choose between losing a day's pay or sending a
sick child to school. Just as viruses rapidly spread in workplaces, the
same happens in schools. Even though child-care centers require sick
children to remain home, "when parents cannot get off work to stay home
with them, many sick children do end up in care." An even bigger threat
to children's health occurs when parents are unable to take time off to
ensure that their children receive needed preventive care, such as
immunizations and well-child visits. Failure to ensure that all children
receive timely preventive care has long-term implications for not only
their health, but our national health care spending.

Most people don't want to interact with a co-worker who is sick. In a
recent survey, 59 percent of businesses said that they have a problem
with presenteeism -- workers showing up to work when they are sick --
compared to 39 percent two years ago. A study by Cornell University
"found that presenteeism despite medical problems costs $180 billion
annually in lost productivity, and may be more costly than absenteeism
due to illness." Yet despite these facts, many businesses still do not
recognize that employees need paid sick days. Herbert recently contacted
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store about its lack of paid sick leave. The
company simply responded, "If employees need to miss a shift due to
illness, there are generally many opportunities to make up that lost
shift later in the week, or the next week." Ness notes that this type of
policy can lead to "economic disaster" for many workers.

REUTERS - While the French get 30 days of paid leave and most other
Europeans receive at least 20, the country with the world's biggest
economy does not guarantee workers a single day. . . Most U.S. firms do
in fact give employees vacations, but the lack of government guarantees
means one in four private-sector workers do not get paid leave, said
researchers for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a
Washington think tank. . .

Workers in Finland had one of the best annual leave packages among
developed countries, a study by the center found. Finnish workers
received 30 days of paid vacation plus another nine paid holidays.

French workers were guaranteed 30 days of paid annual leave, but only
one paid holiday. Most European workers were guaranteed at least 20 days
of vacation, and some also received as many as 13 paid holidays.

Canadian workers were guaranteed 10 days of vacation plus another eight
paid holidays, while Japanese laborers only were guaranteed 10 days of
annual leave, the study found.,20867,21746809-1702,00.html


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