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No Pay for the Weary

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Why paid sick leave is vital to your physical and financial health

by Chris O’Shea

When you take a paid sick day, you’re doing the right thing for your physical and emotional wellbeing. You’re also making a positive impact on your wallet. You likely don’t think of it that way, but as a new report found, whether workers have paid sick leave or not has a tremendous impact on their finances.

The study, from researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University, found that there are 34 million private sector employees in America without access to paid sick leave. Those workers are three times more likely to have household incomes below the poverty line than workers with paid sick leave. The logic is simple. If you don’t have paid sick leave, when you do take time off, you’re inflicting double damage upon yourself — you’re missing pay and now you likely have to pay for medicine or a visit to the doctor. That means workers without paid leave often must decide between their health and their paycheck. It’s a difficult situation to be in. “When workers have no choice but to go to work sick and have no paid sick days, they lose money that goes toward groceries, transportation and health care expenses,” Vicki Shabo, VP for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership for Women and Families, explained to US News. It’s also possible that by neglecting your health you wind up with bigger, pricier health problems down the road.

If you’re one of those workers without paid sick leave, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Try to negotiate for better benefits with your employer by pointing out how it will help the company, not just you. If you can’t get your employer to budge, search for a new job with better benefits while you create a financial safety net for yourself. Look into government assistance programs and build up an emergency fund as quickly as you can. That way, when the day comes that you absolutely can’t make it to work, you’re better prepared to recover financially and physically.