By now, most workers realize that paid sick leave is a valuable workplace benefit that is no longer guaranteed by many employers.
Reducing or eliminating sick-leave allotments has become increasingly common as employers over the past few years have evaluated all benefit programs for cost-savings.
Now comes the counterintuitive news that eliminating paid-sick leave may not be in the best interests of employers. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that workers who have the ability to take paid sick time are less likely to be injured on the job than people who don’t receive paid sick leave.
The study reports that employees with access to paid sick leave have a 28 percent lowered risk of workplace injury than people without it.
Clearly, the risk of workplace injury varies by job type. For health care workers, not having paid sick leave resulted in an 18 percent higher risk of workplace injury. Construction workers – who have some of the highest injury rates – had a 21 percent higher risk of injury when they didn’t have paid sick time.
Additionally, if sick or stressed workers are not able to take time off from work, they may be a greater risk for workplace-related injuries, according to the study. Previous studies have reported that sleep deprivation, fatigue, and certain medications may contribute to work injuries.
And, the added factor of a struggling economy means that some workers are reluctant to take time off for their illnesses if they have no paid leave. Employers report that paid sick-leave policies increases payroll expenses by 1.5 percent.
“Many workers may feel pressured to work while they are sick, out of fear of losing their income,” says study researcher Abay Asfaw. “If fewer people work while they are sick, this could lead to safer operations and fewer injuries in the workplace.”
It is estimated that more than 40 million American workers currently do not enjoy paid sick leave.
New York City is considering an ordinance that would require employers with five or more employees to provide paid sick leave. It would join municipalities such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., along with the state of Connecticut, that require employers to offer paid leave. They report that the leave policy has resulted in lower turnover, higher productivity and morale, and reduced job loss for workers.
John Howard, who heads up the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, says the study shows how work and private lives are intertwined.
“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,” Howard says.
The CDC study shines a light on the previously underappreciated benefits of paid sick leave. But know that a clear economic benefit for employers has been spelled out by the reduced risk of workplace injuries, employers may welcome paid sick time as a benefit for both themselves and their workers.