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Sick leave policies are sorely lacking all across country

As many Houston residents have no doubt heard (or, in the most unfortunate of circumstances, experienced), this year's flu season is one of the worst in recent memory. The influenza strain going around right now is highly contagious and inflicts its victim with some serious symptoms.

You may be asking yourself: "well, yeah, but how does this relate to employment law?" And the answer is: sick time. Many companies have outdated sick policies that do not allot enough time to employees who need time to rest up; or they simply do not offer sick time, an infinitely worse situation that forces sick workers to come in to the office.

Back in 2009 when the H1N1 swine flu was sweeping across the nation, an estimate from the American Journal of Public Health says that there were 5 million infection cases directly related to employees not having enough paid sick days to use.

It is an important issue that really needs a solution as soon as possible. Too many people are without sick time, or simply do not have enough. This ultimately can lead to an even more rapid spread of whatever virus is going around.

At the same time, employees are coming into work and performing at a reduced rate. Sick employees are more inefficient, simply by the nature of being sick. They are more accident prone; less alert; and less able to do their jobs. They also get other people at their company sick.

The spiral effect is clear to see, and when you consider that "presenteeism" (a term coined for employees who go to work while sick) costs the U.S. economy $180 billion every year, it is clear that a solution is needed.

Another thing to remember here is that if you are sick, use your sick time. Even if you are out of sick time, it is important to request time off if you are not well. You should not have to fear retaliatory action -- and, indeed, if your employer retaliates against you because you use sick time, they are in the wrong.

Source: San Angelo Standard-Times, "REKHA BASU: Flu epidemic exposes sick-leave policy gaps," Rekha Basu, Jan. 18, 2013

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