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Many of North Carolina’s workers can’t afford to get sick

In North Carolina, nearly half of the state’s private workforce lacks paid sick days. That means 1.4 million North Carolinians can lose a day’s pay or potentially lose a job by calling in sick. And for many, losing a few days’ pay over the flu is no trivial matter – missing 3.5 days of work can cost a family with two full-time average wage workers $280, or the amount equal to a family’s entire monthly food budget. In addition to lost wages, workers without paid sick days risk job loss. In a recent national survey, one out of four workers said that they have lost a job or were told they would lose a job for taking time off to handle a personal or family illness.  In this economy, when there are no job openings for 3 out of 4 unemployed workers, many workers will understandably “choose” to go to work sick or send their sick child to daycare or school in order to avoid potential job loss.

This lack of options has consequences. Without providing paid sick days for every worker, public health gets put at risk and health care costs increase. In fact, a recent study found that paid sick days could save $1 billion in health costs annually.  The lack of paid sick days also costs employers in the form of decreased productivity and increased turnover. Finally, in this difficult economic climate, we are taking away the potential for families’ economic security by making sick workers choose between getting better and keeping their paychecks.

The North Carolina Justice Center released a report this week laying out a work-family policy agenda that includes paid sick days –  an agenda for North Carolina’s workers, for employers, for public health, and for our economy.

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