This month Pittsburgh officially began a paid sick leave policy that guarantees earned time off for any full or part-time employees who are sick or caring for sick family members. The policy, which was passed in August 2015 but was delayed because of a lawsuit, is being implemented just as public health experts warn that roughly half of Allegheny County residents are expected to acquire coronavirus over the next couple of months.
A 2018 study found that policies like this have cut flu infection rates by as much as 40 percent compared to cities without paid sick leave policies, by reducing the risk of illness transmission.
The University of Pittsburgh conducted a study in 2013 that simulated the spread of flu transmissions and found that universal access to paid sick leave reduced workplace flu infections by 6 percent. Pitt public health professor Dr. Steven Albert estimated that about 12 percent of flu transmissions occur in the workplace, largely when people come to work feeling sick. Though a 6 percent reduction in transmission may seem like a small number, it translates to many more people staying healthy.
“You would cut maybe 3,500 to 4,000 infections per season in Allegheny County,” Dr. Albert said. “That’s not a trivial number.”
Butt, he said, it’s likely too late for the city’s sick leave policy to have a substantial impact on the coronavirus because people need to work in order to accrue sick leave. At businesses with 15 or more employees, employees receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked. He also said that it would be better to frontload paid sick leave so that people don’t have to wait to accrue sick hours before they can stay home from work.
Dr. Albert said the coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of having stronger public health policies that include paid sick leave.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on March 27