The report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which is affiliated with The George Washington University, found that while almost 26 million employed Americans age 18 and older may have been infected with the H1N1 flu in 2009, only 8 million employees took no time off work while infected. Relying on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics on rates of illness and work attendance during the months of September through November 2009, the study suggested that an alarming number of employees attended work while sick, and this pattern was especially prevalent in industries with low paid sick days coverage.
"Work attendance by infected employees is a public health issue due to contagion," said Robert Drago, professor of labor studies and women's studies at Pennsylvania State University and coauthor of the report. "Employees who attended work while infected with H1N1 are estimated to have caused the infection of as many as 7 million coworkers."
Researchers noted that the majority of public sector employees in the U.S. receive paid sick days, but that two out of five workers in the private sector have no access to paid sick days.
"The data suggest that only two-thirds of private sector employees took time away from work when infected with H1N1 despite advice to stay home," said Kevin Miller, senior research associate at the IWPR and coauthor of the study. "Workers without paid sick days must choose whether to go to work sick or lose pay, a choice that many can't afford to make."
Absence due to illness during the H1N1 pandemic reached its peak last October. Researchers found that the drop in absence rates between October and November was twice as steep in the public sector as it was in the private sector, suggesting that presenteeism -- attending work while ill -- among private sector employees without paid sick days may have extended the duration of the outbreak in that sector.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP
April 26, 2010
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