Source: MedPage Today
Researchers have found that private sector workers who have paid sick leave as part of their benefits packages are far less likely to suffer work-related injuries. In fact, workers were 28% less likely to report a work injury that required medical care according to the study and Abay Asfaw, PhD along and colleagues at the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In jobs with a high baseline risk for injuries, like construction or manufacturing, workers seemed to have an advantage if they had access to paid sick leave, reported Dr. Asfaw in the American Journal of Public Health.
Public agencies and private sector establishments are required by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to provide up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible workers. However this time off can be paid or unpaid and it is up to the employer’s discretion as to which they care to provide. According to Dr. Asfaw, the problem that many employers face, should they choose to only offer unpaid leave, is that “many workers may feel pressured to work while they are sick, out of fear of losing their income.” If workers do not take the time off to recover from their illness, they risk succumbing to injury far more easily which could lead to the worker missing extended work periods and the employer having to provide workers’ compensation benefits. Occurrences like these are not in the favor of either the employer or employee. Asfaw also added that “If fewer people work while they are sick, this could lead to safer operations and fewer injuries in the workplace.”
The most recent study is based on data collected by the National Health and Interview Surveys from 2005 to 2008 in which participants were asked if they had paid sick leave and if they had suffered a workplace injury that required medical care in the three months prior to the interview. Since most public sector workers already have paid sick leave, only those who are considered private sector workers — some 38,000 — were considered in the analysis. On average, Asfaw and colleagues stated that 0.8% of workers reported a work related injury that required medical attention, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.24 per 100 full-time equivalent workers. However the nonfatal injury incidence rates differed for those with access to paid sick leave — 2.59 per 100 full-time equivalent workers with paid sick leave compared with 4.18 per 100 full-time equivalent workers for those without.
Over the 4-year study period, access to paid sick leave was stable at about 57%, with variations among industry sectors. For example, less than 30% of agricultural or construction workers had paid sick leave, compared with more than 65% of those in mining and healthcare, added Asfaw and colleagues. The relationship between paid leave and risk of injury also varied across sectors, with a greater impact in sectors that had a high underlying rate of injuries. For instance, a construction worker without paid sick leave was 21% more likely to be injured on the job than a construction worker with sick leave, while the differences were far smaller in such disciplines as services and mining.
Though the numbers aren’t staggering, there appears to be a definite correlation between workers with paid sick leave having fewer work injuries. However whether your employer offers paid or unpaid sick leave, you should absolutely take advantage of it if necessary. If you do not have paid sick leave it may be tempting to try and work through an illness instead of using your sick days, but you risk even further injury which could possibly keep you out of work for an even longer period of time. Approved time off of work is in place for your own good, so if you do need it, make sure to use it.
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