After Corona: Sick Leave Will Be Mandatory
Paid sick leave is necessary for the health of humans and the economy
I hate taking sick leave. Not because I hate getting sick, I that too. But I hate having to ask for sick leave. I feel like a failure when requesting sick leave. I feel like my colleagues will think I am not hardworking or not ambitious.
There is an undercurrent in some workplaces that if you take sick leave you are not a hero. You are weak. Weak for needing to stay home and rest and get better. You should stay at work even if you are coughing up your lungs. Work should always come first.
In the past two years, I have taken 2 days of sick leave. I am entitled to 30 under South African Law.
One morning I woke with intense pain in my shoulder and neck. I could barely move. The physio wrote me a sick note to book me off work. When I phoned my employer to tell them I couldn’t (not I didn't want to) come into work, their response; “please make sure you have access to your emails.”
The second time I had a horrific cold and could barely concentrate or function. My whole body hurt, my nose was running and throat on fire. I came into work and attended to my most urgent matters and then requested if I could go to the doctor. They were not going to take me word that I was too sick to work. It was clear that I was too sick. Once I had a doctor’s note they let me stay home the rest of the day, but only one day.
I tried to take another sick day, I had a mild cold, but was told I was welcome to go to the pharmacy for medicine. I was not told to go home and get better. That was not an option.
The Benefits of Sick Leave
Not every country offers mandatory paid sick leave. Some countries, the USA, do not ensure employees are provided with paid sick leave entitlements.
There are numerous benefits to paid sick leave. Although it may seem that sick leave costs an employer, it costs more to deny employees paid sick leave.
Employees who are provided with paid sick leave are more likely to stay home when sick and therefore less likely to infect their co-workers. Fewer sick employees mean fewer employees will need to stay home to get better or take time off work to go to the doctor.
An employee who takes time off to get better will get better faster than an employee who stays at work. The illness is also less likely to be prolonged or develop into something more serious if they are given time to go home and recuperate.
Employees who take sick leave get better quicker, return to work quickly and productively and also don’t infect the whole office.
Employees who are provided with paid sick leave are also less likely to lose their jobs if they are sick for prolonged periods. Turnover is lower resulting in lower rehiring and training costs.
Employees who are sick do not perform at optimal capacity resulting in lower production. Even if an employee comes to work when sick, they will not be productive rendering their presence in the office useless and a danger to others. Employees who are healthy are able to work harder.
Paid sick leave is not only necessary for the health of employees but also for the health of the economy. The economy is dependent on the health of people that run it.
Sick Leave Entitlements in the World
Not every country has legislated paid sick leave. Some offer none while others are more generous.
The USA, South Korea, and Japan do not have mandated paid sick leave benefits. Although there are 10 States in the USA that have made provisions for formal sick leave.
China — 3 to 24 months depending on a number of years worked and seniority.
Italy- 3 days per year.
UK — paid sick leave at 89.35 pounds per week. The first 3 days are unpaid.
Germany- 6 weeks of paid sick leave per illness.
South Africa — 30 days paid in a 36-month cycle.
Denmark- up to 52 weeks in an 18 month period.
Nigeria- 12 days a year.
Life after Corona
I hope after Coronavirus, sick leave will be standard and mandatory. I hope that when we ask our employers that we wish to take sick leave, they won’t say, “Ok, but you need to have a doctor’s note. And also please take your computer home with you so we can contact you on email”.
I hope they say, “ yes, go take time off and get better. Take 2 or 3 days and only come back when you are 100% better. We will see you after and don’t worry about taking your computer home.”
I hope that you will be seen as a hero for staying at home when sick and not a hero for coming to work. I hope we don’t feel pressured to come to work or feel that we are not hardworking or ambitious enough for not coming to work when ill.
I hope all employers everywhere will take their employee’s word for it when they say they are too sick to work. And for those that abuse sick leave, there will be repercussions.
We all get sick every year. Whether it is a mild cold or severe illness like cancer. Sickness is an inevitable part of life. We are all human and we should all be allowed to take time off work to get better, to recuperate and return to work ready to be productive.
Paid sick leave is good for employees and good for business. And ultimately good for the economy.
After Corona, sick leave won’t be questioned, it will be given freely. I hope.