Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another H1N1 Thought

I keep hearing and seeing people complaining "If you're sick, you should stay home from work." While yes, that's true, you shouldn't be out and about spreading germs to the rest of the healthy people in your world, it's really just not that simple.

I'm incredibly lucky in that I have a good full-time job that offers paid vacation and personal days to use when I'm sick. I think those of us who are lucky enough to have that security tend to forget that there are millions of others who don't have that same luxury. The latest figures from the U.S. Labor Department show that, on a national level, 40% of private-sector full-time employees do not get paid for sick days. More than 77% of all part-time workers don't have paid sick days. So, while it seems intuitive enough to say "if you're sick, stay home," it's really not that easy for a large portion of our workforce.

I'm sure a lot of us have been in that position. Hell, it wasn't even that long ago for me, when I was in college (both undergrad and grad school!), having to make the decision between going to work sick and staying home in bed when I wasn't feeling well but forfeiting an entire day's paycheck. Not everyone has a savings account that they can fall back on, especially with today's economy, when so many are living paycheck-to-paycheck to support their households.

Unfortunately, there's no easy solution to this problem. Companies need to make changes to their policies. Paid time off for illness needs to be made available to the entire population, and sadly, that's not likely to happen any time soon. While not perfect, the Healthy Families Act is a step in the right direction. It's been sitting around since 2005, but has been resurrected. Let's hope that our lawmakers can come together and work something out that will benefit everyone.

For more information on this issue and similar issues affecting women and families, you can also visit the National Partnership for Women and Families.

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