Friday, September 5, 2014

Sick News

My thoughts on today's news about sick people.

Do you have paid sick days?  You know, days that are given to you by your employer to use specifically for times when you fall ill, have a doctor's appointment, or need surgery?  

Photo from Flickr
At my job, we get 13 paid sick days every year, in addition to a s&*t-load of annual leave to use however we please.  Trust me, I know I'm lucky.  At Ben's job, the managers just shifted from allowing all of their employees access to UNLIMITED sick days (yeah...that was a thing) to a paid time off (PTO) system.  Everyone just gets a pot of days to use however they please. None of them are designated sick and none of them are designated vacation.  

Part of my job involves following what happens in the labor world, and I was a little embarrassed to find out that the United States is the only developed country that doesn't mandate paid sick days.  And the state that I live in is just one of the 48 states that doesn't require employers to give workers paid time off to use for reasons related to an illness. 

I don't know how you feel about that but I think that's pretty messed up.  Just like our health care system, the lack of a requirement for sick leave is another way that I'm reminded that people with chronic illness are often left to fend for themselves.  Before health care reform, we were forced to face rejection letters from insurance companies saying we were too sick to deserve coverage.  Without a federal sick leave mandate, the government basically gives us the "tough luck" speech when it comes to having to take time off to deal with our health. 

Well California just became the second state in the country to require that employers give out paid sick leave, at least three days of it.  I was in the hospital in April for four days.  And that was JUST a hospital visit.  Three days of sick leave wouldn't even begin to cover the amount of time I've spent getting lab work done, sitting on an exam table at a doctor's office, or sitting in a hospital bed for four hours getting liquids for dehydration.  

Sick leave should NOT be compared to annual leave.  None of us added chronic illness to our roster of life events in the same way that people make reservations for sight -seeing tours in Italy for a second honeymoon.  Going to the the doctor is not a vacation.  Staying in a hospital is not a weekend at the spa.  You can choose what day you want to fly out for your trip to Miami.  You don't choose what day your body decides to stop working properly.