Message #3: Paid sick days will protect public health and safety

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When people go to work sick, public health is put at risk.  The Center for Disease Control found that more than ten million cases of foodborne illness each year are caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food while they are at work.  Food service workers aren’t choosing to go to work ill, but if they can’t afford to miss a day unpaid, they are put in this impossible situation.  Having paid sick days makes it possible for employees to stay home when they’re ill and prevents the spread of illness to the public.  By keeping sick children out of schools, by supporting people in seeking preventive care, and by ensuring that people can stay home from work they are ill, paid sick days legislation makes Vermont healthier.  As Vermont continues to work on ensuring that everyone has health insurance, we also need to ensure that people are able to access care when they need it.

Facts:

  • Low-wage workers, including food service, personal health care and childcare workers, are the least likely to have paid sick days.

  • Seventy-nine percent of food industry workers—who are especially likely to spread illness if they go to work sick—don’t get paid sick days, according to a Food Chain Workers Alliance study.  A recent Centers for Disease Control study found that more than half of all norovirus outbreaks can be traced back to sick food service workers.

  • Everyone’s health is at risk when people are forced to go to work sick.  During the H1N1 epidemic, 7 million people caught the virus from co-workers who came to the job while sick.

  • Paid sick days reduce the risk of on-the-job injury.  In fact, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, workers who are able to earn paid sick days are 28% less likely to get injured on the job.

  • In the spring of 2013, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that if H.208 is implemented in Vermont, we would see a $5 million cost savings due to reductions in emergency room visits alone, with roughly half of the savings in public health programs.

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