One of the things we are told is not the responsibility of government but an “individual responsibility” is not working sick or sending our kids to school when they are sick. I pointed out that the ability to do this may depend on others, particularly employers. Employers also have a responsibility, not just employees.
The US has some of the worst sick leave and child care policies among industrialized nations. It is nothing short of a scandal. And now these non-policies have the potential to have major public health consequences. The US labor movement is querying its workers about this. Here is an example of such in inquiry by the United Steel Workers (USW):
The USW is working with the broader labor movement to evaluate how the current outbreak of swine flu (H1N1 flu) may affect our members in their workplaces, and assess employer policies and programs that might impact workers (and their families) during this outbreak.
Public health agencies are requesting that people with flu symptoms stay home from work and that parents not send children with flu symptoms to school. At the same time, many employers have absentee policies where workers get ?negative points? or discipline when they miss work – including for illness or to care for the illness of a family member.
We are currently gathering some examples of these types of policies where workers are penalized for such absences.
If you are familiar with such a policy and have access to an electronic or written copy, please send it to Sharon Thompson in the USW?s Health, Safety and Environment Department (email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send by fax to 412-562-2584).
That’s another thing about a pandemic. It lays bare a society’s weaknesses.