The worst of the flu season may already be over, but the outbreak was pretty nasty this year and large numbers of people were laid low by it. One can only wonder how different the situation might have been if most infected people had stayed home — where they belonged — rather than gone to work.
A front-page story in Monday’s Gazette dealt with the conundrum faced by the roughly one-third of the civilian workforce that doesn’t get paid when they call in sick: They can’t afford to miss a day’s — or several days’ — pay, thus they go to work and get sicker or risk infecting their co-workers. They’re not the only ones who do this, though: Plenty of workers who get paid when they’re sick still are reluctant to take time off. Often, they’re not doing themselves, or their fellow workers, any favors.
All employers should provide their workers with at least a few sick days each year, if for no other reason than it’s the humane thing to do. But it also makes good business sense: If a worker who is sick infects a half-dozen or more other workers, nobody wins. While the need for a law is unfortunate, and wouldn’t guarantee that 1) workers used it properly, or 2) still wouldn’t infect workers if they did (because people often don’t know when they first get sick, or when they’re no longer infectious), it’s still not a bad idea given the public health emergency that something like a flu epidemic can pose.