Workers with Paid Sick Leave Injured Less Frequently

They're 28 percent less likely to suffer a non-fatal occupational injury, according to a NIOSH study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

For those wondering how many U.S. workers may lose employer-subsidized health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, a new NIOSH study will be especially interesting. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, it found workers with access to paid sick leave were 28 percent less likely to suffer non-fatal occupational injuries than workers who lack access to paid sick leave.

Workers in high-risk jobs (including in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and health care) apparently benefit the most from paid sick leave, four NIOSH officials noted in their discussion of the study posted to the NIOSH Science Blog.

"From these results we concluded that introducing or expanding employee access to paid sick leave might help businesses reduce the incidence of occupational injuries. This could, in turn, reduce costs to employers. To our knowledge, this is the first U.S. study to examine this issue empirically," wrote Abay Asfaw, Ph.D., senior service fellow in the NIOSH Office of the Director; Regina Pana-Cryan, Ph.D., senior scientist in the NIOSH Office of the Director and the coordinator of the NIOSH Economics Program; and Roger R. Rosa, Ph.D., NIOSH deputy associate director for Science.

The reason there is a connection between paid sick leave and workplace safety is simple: If people are not working while sick, and thus performing at reduced functional capacity, this might make that workplace safer. "The potential safety benefit observed in our study extends previous research demonstrating that paid sick leave is associated with shorter worker recovery times and reduced complications from minor health problems. Paid sick leave also enables workers to care for loved ones and can help prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Employers may benefit from improved productivity if paid sick leave helps reduce absenteeism, or unscheduled leave, and 'presenteeism,' or the problem of sick workers continuing to work while not fully productive," they wrote.

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