New Study: Lack of Paid Sick Days Contributed to Millions of H1N1 Cases

| Nov 22, 2011

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that various racial and ethnic groups were at greater risk of exposure to H1N1 during the pandemic because they didn’t have access to paid sick days. In particular, the Latino population was at greater risk of illness because many lacked this basic right.

As the Center for American Progress’s Sarah Jane Glynn explains on Think Progress:

“Potential exposure to H1N1 during the 2009 pandemic was significantly related to race and ethnicity, with Hispanics having the greatest risk of infection. Even after controlling for income and education, Hispanics had the highest probability of contracting an influenza-like illness, due to the absence of paid sick leave and structural factors such as the number of children living in the household.

The lack of paid sick leave among Hispanic workers contributed to an estimated 1.2 million cases of influenza-like illness among Hispanics, and 5 million additional cases in the general population.

Nearly 60 percent of Latino workers — about 12 million people — do not have access to paid sick days through their employers. Latino adults are more likely to be in the workforce than any other racial or ethnic group, and they are also more likely to work in service industry jobs such as personal care or food service — jobs where they are in direct contact with the public and where paid sick leave is less commonly offered.

Thus, the person preparing your food at a restaurant is disproportionately likely to be Latino, and is also disproportionately unlikely to have paid leave that would allow him to stay home if he caught the flu. Other research has shown that a lack of paid sick days resulted in employees of all races and ethnicities who were infected with H1N1 going to work while sick, thus infecting an estimated additional 7 million individuals — as many as 1,500 of whom died as a result.”

For more on the study, visit the American Journal of Public Health.

For more on the impact a lack of paid sick days has on Latino families, check out this fact sheet.