Businesses Can Avoid the High Cost of Workplace Injuries by Offering Earned Sick Days

Dec 18, 2012

By Liz Ben-Ishai

Add one more piece of evidence to the increasingly-difficult-to-ignore body of facts that suggests earned sick days – particularly for lower-wage workers – are crucial to our country’s economic success and families’ economic security. A new study  by health economist J. Paul Leigh shows that the economic cost of workplace injuries among low-wage workers amounted to more than $39 billion in 2010. The high cost of workplace injuries among low-wage workers is particularly striking in light of recent research demonstrating that there is a significant correlation between lack of paid sick leave and the incidence of nonfatal occupational injuries. A study by Abay Asfaw and colleagues, released earlier this year, showed that workers with paid sick leave were 28 percent less likely than those without leave to be injured. Given that 80 percent of workers making very low wages have no access to paid sick leave, the need to heed these findings on workplace injuries and sick leave is urgent.

This research reinforces what anyone who has experienced even a common cold intuitively knows: illness impairs our ability to protect ourselves and those around us from injury in the workplace. The authors of the study that found a staggering relationship between workplace injuries and the absence of paid sick days point out that “sick or stressed workers who continue to work are likely to take medications, experience sleep problems, or be fatigued.” Under the effects of fatigue and medications, these workers may make mistakes with devastating consequences.

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