One of the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic is that the way to stop the spread of a disease is to keep sick people away from healthy ones. But with many employers not offering paid sick days, some workers face the dilemma of whether it’s more important to stay home while sick or go to work because they can’t afford the loss of pay.

Federal legislation has been proposed that would require workers be given up to seven paid sick days per year to care for themselves or a sick family member.

The CARES Act passed last year required paid sick time for workers affected by COVID-19, but that legislation ended at the start of the new year. That leaves both employers and workers vulnerable.

The smart employer would recognize the wisdom of paid sick days: primarily, preventing the spread of sickness to other employees or customers. Sick workers affect productivity. Sick employees can lead to sick customers, particularly in the service industries. On top of these financial considerations, there’s the humanity of allowing an employee to take care of himself, herself or a family member without forgoing pay.

Statistics indicate that there are a significant number of employers that don’t provide paid sick days. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 24 percent of the civilian workforce, roughly 33.6 million people, does not have paid sick days.

Furthermore, those without paid sick days often are among those earning the least. Some 51 percent of workers earning $13.80 or less per hour have paid sick days; for those earning less than $10.80 an hour, just 31 percent have the benefit, according to the BLS.

Absent a national law, some states and local municipalities have passed their own legislation, leading to a hodgepodge of protocols nationwide. Twelve states and the District of Columbia require some form of paid sick time. Although the particulars vary, the vast majority of them provide those who work an average of 35 hours a week with the equivalent of 40 hours of paid sick time annually.

Pennsylvania does not require paid sick days. Pittsburgh does, and Allegheny County is in the process of getting such a measure on the books.

Paid sick days are good for people and good for business. A federal standard makes sense.

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board