So everyone's panicking. But in New York, here's an interesting side effect: paid sick leave is becoming a major political issue.
If you're a mom and you're sick but you know you're not getting paid if you don't show up at work, guess what? Not surprisingly, that paycheck often wins. Even, or more accurately, especially, if you're in a position to spread your sickness to others. Because if you work at McDonald's or in a nursing home, the chances are that paid sick leave is not part of your benefit plan. Attractive thought, isn't it? "Thanks, Ma'am, and here's your ACHOO! burger."
Does illness spread because people come to work when they're sick? Yes. One study estimated that more than 5 million flu cases could have been avoided during H1N1if a national sick leave policy had been in place. Paid sick leave can even save lives.
Of course, there are the usual arguments. Sick leave will kill jobs. It could be an economic hardship, especially since we haven't fully recovered from the last recession.
But economists have pretty much disproven these arguments. And successful sick leave measures in San Francisco and Connecticut have shown that economic disaster is unlikely.
So, to me at least, it seems obvious: Paid sick leave benefits everyone. We should implement it as soon as we can, in as many places as possible.