Employers like anything that saves them money while getting more productivity from their workers. So a recent study by an arm of the Centers for Disease Control showing a positive correlation between paid sick leave policies and lower rate of occupational injuries should be music to employers’ ears.
In what it was the first study to examine the issue empirically, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely overall to suffer nonfatal occupational injuries than workers without access to paid sick leave. “Workers in high-risk occupations and industry sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and health care and social assistance, appeared to benefit most from paid sick leave, ” the study said. “From these results we concluded that introducing or expanding employee access to paid sick leave might help businesses reduce the incidence of occupational injuries. This could, in turn, reduce costs to employers.”
The nub of the study’s conclusion is this: Access to paid sick leave might reduce the pressure to work while sick out of fear of losing income.
And that can have positive ripple effects, including shorter recovery time from minor illnesses, the ability to care for loved ones and prevent the spread of contagious diseases, reduced absenteeism, and the problem of “presenteeism,” or continuing to work while not being fully productive.
But there’s another side to the story, and that is that 43 percent of workers in this country reported having no access to paid sick leave benefits.
Until that imbalance is redressed, therefore, we can expect occupational injuries to keep piling up, cutting into possible productivity gains from a reduction in injuries.
To read about “Making the Case for Paid Sick Leave,” visit NIOSH’s science blog.
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