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'Sick days' for parents needed more now

Sick day standards are simply one more way

Sick day standards are simply one more way to shelter the nation's families. Credit: iStock

New York City just passed a law requiring businesses with more than 15 employees to offer paid sick days, beginning in October 2015. The law also says that workers can't be fired for taking sick time.

This measure -- which is winning approval in other major cities like Seattle and Washington -- has been years in the making. But in all the debate, very little has been said about an underlying cause of sick days — that is, sick children. The rise in the number of working parents and single-parent homes has meant that the common childhood cold, flu, earache or strep throat has inserted itself into the workplace.

People who work with children know how often parents must choose between work and staying home with a sick kid. Recent advice to day care centers warns about the “drop and go” syndrome. Some parents leave a child with a caregiver and run out the door before it’s noticed that the child is ill. Some parents give their child a dose of medicine to ease symptoms just long enough to sneak him or her into school or day care.

This can’t be good for public health. Kids in groups spread illness among themselves, then return home and infect their parents — who in turn go to work and expose their co-workers and customers. What kind of sick way is that to run a healthy planet?

A better option would be child care for kids who are too sick to be in regular day care. But it’s very hard to make these work financially. Most day care in the United States is supplied by people who take children into their homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Were an operator to convert to sick care, the caregiver could charge higher rates. But he or she could go weeks without a client dropping off a sick child. There’s also the liability of dispensing medications, and dehydration and other medical problems.

For those reasons, day care for sick children is rare, and new sick day laws will probably become more common. Read more about the issue here.

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