U.S. lags in paid sick days, work benefits

Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:29pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States lags far behind other nations in offering paid sick days, paid parental leave and other workplace benefits that proponents consider vital to public health and workers rights, according to research released on Tuesday.

The eight-year study found the most economically competitive nations offer forms of paid leave to workers that the United States does not, according to researchers at Harvard University and Canada's McGill University.

Of the world's 15 most competitive nations, 14 mandate paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid maternal leave and 12 provide paid paternal leave by law, they said. Eleven provide paid leave to care for children's health and eight provide paid leave for adult family care.

The United States legally guarantees none of these policies to workers, the authors note. The findings are published in a new book, "Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth that We Can't Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone."

The issue of paid employee leave in the United States has heated up. Advocates argue paid leave allows sick workers to stay home without financial hardship and helps prevent workers from spreading such diseases as the H1N1 flu.

Advocates for women's rights argue paid family leave is essential for women, who tend to care more for family members than do men, to compete and advance in the job market.

Opponents argue that mandating such leave policies would cost jobs and be a financial burden on businesses.

"One of the questions that's consistently asked in the United States is ... will we be able to compete if we have paid sick leave, paid maternity leave?" said author Jody Heymann of McGill's Institute for Health and Social Policy. "Will there be more unemployment? Will we lose jobs?   Continued...

<p>Julie Schultz, who is eight months pregnant, waits to receive a free H1N1 flu vaccine at Richard J. Daley College, as six city colleges offered the vaccine to children, the elderly, pregnant women and other "high risk" people, in Chicago October 24, 2009. REUTERS/Frank Polich</p>