Workers with Paid Sick Leave Less Likely to be Injured on Job

According to recent study of health survey data, private sector employees with paid sick leave are less likely to be hurt on the job. The research, which was conducted by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Washington, D.C., found that these workers were “28% less likely to report an occupational injury that needed medical care.” The information was revealed in a statement from Dr. Abay Asfaw, PhD.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act does necessitate that public and private-sector establishments allow for up to twelve weeks of leave to all eligible employees, but it does not specify whether that time must be paid or unpaid. The result of this policy is that employees who are not allotted paid sick leave feel pressured to work through illness because they do not want to lose any income. According to Asfaw’s statement, this could lead to an “increased risk of injury.” The study thus concluded that if fewer people work while they are sick, it could lead to a safer workplace.

The researchers did not that their data was “cross-sectional” and could not effectively establish a cause-and-effect relationship between paid sick leave and workplace safety. However, it is notable for being the first such effort to analyze information representing the non-institutionalized U.S. population. The study used data from the National Health Interview Surveys between 2005 and 2008. The surveys included questions regarding workplace injuries requiring medical care. However, the data was collected only from private-sector employees, as most public-sector workers have paid sick leave.

Of those surveyed, about 0.8% reported an occupational injury that required medical attention. More specifically, there were 2.59 nonfatal injuries per 100 full-time employees with paid sick leave and 4.18 per 100 full-time employees without. The study also found that sick leave coverage varied between industry sectors-fewer than 30% of agricultural or construction workers had paid sick leave, but over 65% in mining or health care, according to reports by Asfaw and colleagues. The researchers also found that the impact of paid sick leave was greater in industries “with a higher underlying rate of injuries.”

As an example, a construction worker without paid sick leave was 21% more likely to be hurt while working than one with paid sick leave, but this difference was less drastic in other areas of employment. The researchers also acknowledged that the injury data were self-reported, which may or may not have influenced the responses.

Paid Sick Leave Linked to Fewer Injuries at Work, MedPage Today, August 1, 2012

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