CDC: Sick leave cuts illness at work up to 10%

sick businessmanHere’s a solid reason to encourage employees to take time off when they don’t feel well: Not only will it help them recover faster, but chances are there will be a real, verifiable decrease in the level of illness in the workplace.  

And that means potential savings of both payroll dollars not spent on temps or overtime for fill-in workers and also potentially lower health insurance premium costs.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps careful track of annual influenza outbreaks. Lately, the CDC has been able to conduct a real-life experiment using that data, mapping it against locations where local laws require employers to provide some amount of paid time off for workers who become ill.

The correlation between available time off and lower flu rates in locations that mandate sick leave are dramatic.

The decrease in the flu rate in those cities is about 5% to 10%.


Since flu is a costly illness, employers just may see an equally dramatic drop in their health care costs.

While the flu itself may not be a driver of big health care bills, its complications are.

According to the CDC, possible serious flu complications include multi-organ failure and inflammation of the heart, brain and muscle tissues. Flu infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to life-threatening sepsis. Other complications can include asthma attacks and worsening heart conditions.

All those conditions can add up to large medical bills.

Advice: Fall is the ideal time to sponsor a flu vaccine clinic in your workplace. All health plans now are required to fully cover routine vaccinations like the annual flu shot. Work with your insurer to set up a clinic to prevent flu infections.

And work with upper management to craft a plan that encourages employees to take time off if they still come down with influenza.