The Need for Sick Leave
About two weeks ago, Austin got a bad cold. He missed three days of work, but was basically fine by Saturday. Yay! But the next day I woke up with a cough. For two days it wasn’t so bad, but by the time I got home on Wednesday, it had taken over, and I was sneezing and sniffling and just generally miserable.
Obviously I do not like colds. However, this one has reminded me of how grateful I am for paid sick leave, and how disturbed I am that every company isn’t required to provide it. Me at work on Thursday would have meant sneezing every five minutes, disrupting colleagues, and spreading germs, all while doing no real work because I would be fuzzy from cold medicine. Instead I got to take the day and sleep, rest, drink fluids and blow my nose as often and loudly as needed. I had Friday off already, which means that I’ve been able to take care of myself to the point that I will be healthy when I go to work on Monday.
Without that leave, the cold could have gotten much worse. It’s been literally freezing here, so an upper and lower respiratory infection could turn into bronchitis (as it often does for me) or even pneumonia. But I didn’t have to make the 30 minute walk to and from work, or sit in freezing conference rooms. I could stay on the couch, with the kittens and the Gilmore Girls and multiple boxes of tissues and let the illness work itself out.
I do not understand the argument that if someone is sick they should either come to work (and risk making everyone else sick) or forgo that day’s pay. I’ve heard small business owners complain that they can’t afford this or shouldn’t be responsible, but I disagree. They say they can’t afford it, but can they really afford multiple illness stemming from the guy who couldn’t stay home because he needs to get paid? Paid leave of all kinds is what we should expect and demand as part of the total compensation. If I’m going to give you most of my waking hours five days a week, you should be responsible for more than just a paycheck. You should be care for the wellbeing of the worker. We are not just widgets that are a cost ti be calculated.
But as I said, in my case, I’m lucky. I have sick leave, thanks to my employer recognizing my humanity.