RELEASE: Working Families Deserve To Take A Sick Day Without Ruining Their Holiday

Woman in a white coat with a stethoscope working on a laptop computer with a clipboard

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

As cold and flu cases increase and holidays loom, how many working parents will put their health at risk to give their kids a good holiday?

Columbia, MO – As Missouri gets colder and people gather with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, winter illnesses are on the rise. What does that mean for Missouri’s working families?

The most common winter illnesses, like bronchitis and the flu, can come with painful and even life-threatening symptoms, like fever, chest pain, body aches and shortness of breath. Most winter illnesses are also contagious, and doctors recommend waiting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to go back to work to avoid spreading sickness

Only a slim majority (58%) of full-time employees in Missouri are eligible for paid sick leave. Plus, the industries where people are least likely to have sick leave – like construction and food service – are also the industries where working with winter illness could be the most harmful. Working in a physical industry like construction with an illness could be life threatening, and food service workers could easily transmit contagious diseases.

While federal law guarantees unpaid sick and family leave, neither federal nor Missouri law guarantee access to paid sick leave. And Missourians who make less than $75,000 annually are less likely to have access to paid sick leave than those who make more than $75,000. Missourians like Marieta Ortiz, who works as a server at RC’s restaurant and Mission Taco in Kansas City, are only a few sick days away from disaster.

“I am a single mom working two jobs,” said Ortiz. “I’ve been sick and had to take unpaid time off from work. I’m actually sick right now and have been for weeks. I haven’t had any time off to recover, so I’ve had to take over-the-counter medicine at work just to get through the day. I can’t afford to take time off because I’m trying to pay down bills I’m already behind on, so I can’t even go to the doctor to get better medicine. My bills don’t take a day off so I can’t either. Paid sick days would allow single parents like me to put my health and my kids’ health first. It would give me the chance to actually recover from illness and make sure I can take care of my children and take them to the doctor when they get sick too.”

The financial issues attributed to unpaid sick leave will only increase in the holiday season, as consumers are expected to spend anywhere from an additional $850 to $1500 during the winter holiday season.