Another flu problem: lack of paid sick days bringing sick workers to work

Health officials are urging businesses to keep sick employees home this fall to control the spread of swine flu. But for many San Joaquin Valley workers, a sick day is a day without wages.

So they’re still showing up for work, exposing others to the highly contagious flu strain, researchers say.

Nearly 60 million workers in the United States and 5.4 million in California do not have paid sick leave, according to studies by Human Impact Partners, an Oakland-based health-policy advocacy organization.

Valley statistics are not available, but it’s likely a more serious problem here due to poverty. Seventy-nine percent of the lowest-paid workers in California do not have paid sick days, according to the studies.

The problem is evident at the Family HealthCare Network, which offers after-hours and Saturday clinics, primarily for low-income Valley workers.

“We do find those who have to work will go to work — and will try to come in the evening hours to see a physician,” said Mary Alice Escarsega, vice president of administrative services.

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