I don’t know if the rest of the world laughs at the US, but I feel quite sure they at least shake their collective heads when they hear how we lack one of the most important non-pharmaceutical measures against pandemic flu: paid sick leave. Of course only those countries with a policy of paid sick leave would be shaking their heads. It turns out, though, that’s just about everybody:
The United States is one of only five countries in the world without a national policy on paid sick leave, Dodd said.
“We’re in the company – and I say this respectfully of these countries – of Lesotho, Liberia, Papua-New Guinea and Swaziland. Those countries and the United States are the five that don’t have paid sick leave,” [Connecticut Senator Chris] Dodd said.
“Five nations, four of whom are struggling economies, barely surviving as nation-states, and the richest country in the world,” he told a hearing in the Senate health, education, labor and pensions subcommittee. (The Independent [UK])
There are an estimated 57 million private sector workers without sick leave who are much more likely to go to work while sick or send their children to school when they are sick. The attack rate for this virus isn’t know with certainty, but CDC is using a reasonable estimate of 10% of workplace contacts. It might be more or it might be less but it is avoidable. Dodd has introduced emergency legislation to require paid sick days for influenza, but it’s not likely to pass nor is it any where near sufficient. Republicans have already announced their opposition on the grounds it would hurt an “already aching economy.” I guess it’s better that workers ache than some hypothetical business somewhere. But since businesses aren’t people, they don’t really ache. Just the people who work in them do.
And when they get sick, they aren’t productive and they make others sick. If we toted up the lost productivity I’m guessing it would pay for sick leave many times over. But if it didn’t? Wouldn’t it still be the right thing to do?