Everyone knows staying home from work when you have the flu helps protect your co-workers from getting sick. Unfortunately, not everyone does it.
A new National Bureau of Economic Research paper argues that one reason for that is access to paid sick leave. The paper by Stefan Pichler and Nicolas R. Ziebarth argues that the general flu rate “decreases significantly” when employees have access to paid time off due to illness. It also found that more people play hooky, or stay home when they aren’t actually contagious.
Unlike most industrialized countries, U.S. workers are not guaranteed pay when they take off from work due to an illness. Messrs. Pichler and Ziebarth say half of American workers don’t have access to paid sick leave.
In the U.S., the fight over access to paid sick leave has largely been about income inequality. Labor Department data from 2015 shows that only around 31 percent of the lowest-earning quarter of private-sector workers had access to paid sick leave, while 84% of the highest-earning quarter did.