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Reduce the spread of the flu with paid sick time

June 14, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA — A first of its kind study indicates that allowing all employees access to paid sick days would reduce the spread of influenza infections in the workplace, according to Health Canal.

Researchers at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health simulated an influenza epidemic in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County and found that "universal access to paid sick days would reduce flu cases in the workplace by nearly 6 percent and estimated it to be more effective for small, compared to large, workplaces," the article stated.

"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with flu stay home for 24 hours after their fever breaks. However, not everyone is able to follow these guidelines. Many more workers in small workplaces than in large ones lack access to paid sick days and hence find it difficult to stay home when ill," said lead author Supriya Kumar, Ph.D., M.P.H., a post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology.

"Our simulations show that allowing all workers access to paid sick days would reduce illness because fewer workers get the flu over the course of the season if employees are able to stay home and keep the virus from being transmitted to their co-workers," Kumar added.

According to the article, in addition to investigating the impact of universal access to paid sick days, Dr. Kumar and her colleagues looked at an alternative intervention they termed "flu days," in which all employees had access to one or two paid days to stay home from work and recover from the flu.

Giving employees one flu day resulted in more than a 25 percent decrease in influenza infections due to workplace transmission, while a two flu-day policy resulted in a nearly 40 percent decrease, the article noted.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.