Workers With Paid Sick Days Healthier, More Productive: Study

WEDNESDAY Aug. 1, 2012 -- Employees with paid sick leave are healthier than other workers who do not have this benefit, new study findings suggest.

According to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workers with paid sick leave are 28 percent less likely to suffer nonfatal work-related injuries.

In addition, the researchers noted that those with jobs in high-risk industries, such as construction, manufacturing and health care, who often suffer from pain, sprains, fractures and chronic injuries, gain the most from this benefit.

"This study highlights how our work lives and our personal health are intertwined," the institute's director, Dr. John Howard, said in a CDC news release. "This concept of total worker health, which involves creating an environment of well-being both at home and at work, is an important aspect of the American economy, as we depend on able and productive workers."

In conducting the study, the researchers examined national survey data collected between 2005 and 2008 on 38,000 workers in the private sector. The investigators found that health care workers and technicians who did not have paid sick leave were 18 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal work-related injury than their peers with similar jobs who did have access to paid sick leave.

The study also found that construction workers without paid sick leave were 21 percent more likely to sustain a nonfatal work-related injury than construction workers who did have this benefit.

If sick or stressed workers are not able to take time off from work, they may be at greater risk for injuries, the study authors warned. Previous studies have reported that sleep deprivation, fatigue and certain medications may contribute to nonfatal workplace injuries, they added.

"Many workers may feel pressured to work while they are sick, out of fear of losing their income," the study's lead researcher, Abay Asfaw, said in the news release. "If fewer people work while they are sick, this could lead to safer operations and fewer injuries in the workplace."

The study authors also pointed out that their findings support previous research that found that access to paid sick leave is associated with shorter recovery times and fewer complications from minor health problems. In addition, paid sick leave for workers could reduce the risk of spreading illnesses, particularly in day-care facilities and schools, the researchers noted.

In the United States, employers have the option to provide their workers with paid sick leave, but it's not required. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act mandates public- and private-sector companies to provide up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible workers, but it doesn't have to be paid leave, the authors explained in the release. In 2010, only 40 million private-sector employees in the United States had access to paid sick leave.

More research is needed to better understand how paid sick leave could benefit communities and prevent the spread of disease, the study authors concluded.

The study was released online in advance of print publication in the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

The U.S. Department of Labor has more about sick leave.

Posted: August 2012


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