You learn a lot when you move from investigator to subject. I just heard about Drive-by Tylenol for day-care and school age kids. This is the practice of stuffing a couple of Tylenol down the little tyke’s throat to bring down a fever just before entering the daycare center. The objective is to get 4 or 5 hours of work in before being called to school because your child has a fever. The underground lore about it includes not using any flavored Tylenol preps with red dye in them so that when the child urps up everthing after lunch there will be no tell-tale pink color savvy teachers will recognize. The teachers have no such problem. Many of them are also coming to the classroom sick. We don’t pay teachers well and many have no benefits. They can’t afford to miss work any more than their parents can miss work when their kids are sick. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the US is alone among 22 wealthy nations not having a mandatory sick leave policy:
“Working Americans can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick because they don’t have paid sick days,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, Director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy and Professor of Epidemiology at McGill University and lead author of the report. “The lack of paid sick days puts Americans at substantially greater risk of contagious diseases – from the flu, which kills thousands annually, to diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and the threat of new diseases like the H1N1 flu virus.”
To compare the various national policies, the authors calculated employer- or government- provided financial support available to workers facing a bout of flu requiring that they miss five days of work or a cancer treatment requiring that they miss fifty days of work.
The authors show that the United States is the only country in the study that does not provide paid sick leave for a worker undergoing a fifty-day cancer treatment and that only three countries – the United States, Canada and Japan – have no national policy requiring employers to recover from the flu. (Center for Economic and Policy Research [CEPR])
This is argued as an economic policy, but it has real and tangible public health implications, as in the practice of Drive-by Tylenoling or working sick “presenteeism.” In an economic downturn, relying on employers to subsidize public health with a sensible sick leave policy is unrealistic and in fact is a clear failure. The result is billions of dollars of loss to communities in infected kids, co-workers and customers, not to mention the pain, misery and potentially fatal consequences.
In May, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) sought to remedy this disgraceful record by introducing a bill mandating up to 7 paid sick days a year:
DeLauro’s bill would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.* She stressed that it provides protections for businesses — companies with fewer than 15 employees will be exempt, and companies that already provide leave won’t have to change their policies.
DeLauro said that the bill will bring government policy in line, not just with other countries, but with the modern American lifestyle, in which it’s less and less common for a household to have a stay-at-home parent to care for sick children, so a parent loses out on wages or a sick kid infects his classmates at school.
“Our public policy has not caught up with the way today people are living their lives.” (HuffPo)
This isn’t a giveaway. You’d have to work more than 4 years to get the maximum sick leave, but it’s at least a move in the right direction (forward). And we’re currently standing still — or worse.
I am seeing up close what these kind of sick leave non-policies produce in the context of a flu outbreak: Drive-by Tylenol.