Does sick pay encourage workers to play ill?

Paid sick leave leads to increased absenteeism among workers - including those who aren't ill - new research says

Does sick pay encourage workers to play ill?

Paid sick leave schemes encourage employees to stay home, even when they are not ill, a major research paper has found.

A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, in the US found that employees who have access to paid leave for illness are more likely to stay home and 'play ill'.

Unlikes Singaporean employers, US employers are not mandated at a federal level to provide paid sick leave for staff. Statutory sick leave in the USA is determined by individual states. 

Whilst the research found that sick schemes help "significantly decrease" the flu rate by encouraging contagious employees to stay home, it found that this also has a knock-on effect in encouraging absenteeism among workers.

However, a lack of paid leave for sickness can lead employees to spread illness among co-workers - the research found that the absence of a sick leave programme often forces contagious employees to go into work, risking infecting their colleagues.

The paper, The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes, also looked at Germany, which it said has one of the "most generous universal sick leave systems in the world," - employers are usually mandated to provide 100% sick pay from the first day of absence for up to six weeks.

It found that where sick pay had been reduced from this level, the reduction in those 'playing ill' was larger than the increase in the infectious disease rate.

This suggests that less provision for sick pay could lead to fewer cases of worker absenteeism, without significantly impacting the sick rate among employees.

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