Paid Sick Time? You're Lucky

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Paid Sick Time? You're Lucky

Many nurses are not covered

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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If your employer provides paid sick leave, count yourself fortunate: Only two-thirds of Americans are able to collect a paycheck for time spent at home due to illness. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41.7 million American workers are without paid sick time. Sadly, this includes many nurses, particularly those who work for smaller medical practices.

Showing up Sick: Presenteeism
What does this mean? For one thing, it means that many people go to work sick, which can pose a health risk to other employees and patients. Don’t believe it? According to the American Journal of Public Health, more than 5 million people became ill during the 2009 flu season because fellow employees came to work sick.

Paid sick leave is much more common if you are a full-time employee; almost 80 percent of these workers receive compensation for sick time. Still, even this group must often work for a predetermined amount of time before becoming eligible for paid sick leave and the days allowed can be quite limited, ranging from about 10 per year to four or fewer.

Part-Time and Self-Employed at Risk
Sick leave is much rarer for part-time workers, many of whom face termination if they don’t show up for any reason, and the self-employed, who may lose days of business. That’s a big problem for healthcare providers who function as independent businesspeople, like many advanced practice nurses.

There is no doubt that sick leave benefits can be costly, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, a typical flu season costs businesses over $10 billion in hospital care and outpatient visits — and that figure does not include the cost associated with lost sales and productivity. 

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