Do You Get Paid Sick Days? Y/N

Logan: This week I made like a second grader and got strep throat. I knew what it was almost immediately and went to the doctor ($30 copay) and got antibiotics ($15), but I was still very sick for four days. Is there anything more boring than people talking about being sick? No. But there is a point to this. The point to this is: I couldn’t work while I was sick. It was impossible. I missed three shifts at my day job and I couldn’t do any work for this site, or for a freelance project I’m working on. I thought I could work from home, and I’d try and then I’d just like, feel so terrible that I’d rollover and fall asleep again. But it worked out for me—I was able to get my shifts covered, you were wonderful and told me to rest and you’d take care of my work for the site, miraculously my freelance deadline got pushed, but the whole experience really kind of hit home how precarious my situation is—and that of so many workers!

Mike: Yes, so the Labor Department says that two-thirds of workers at the bottom of the 25th percentile of the pay scale don’t get sick days, so if they don’t show up to work, they don’t get paid, which is a tough position to be in when every dollar counts. Plus, employers don’t want you showing up to work if you’re sick even if you want to try to power through it, because you can get other people sick. Are you thinking about how to make up the lost pay from your day job?

Logan: Ha, um. Well, no. I do have a few freelance things happening, but who knows when that money will come in (I don’t!). This month has been LEAN anyway because when I went home for the holidays I spent all my energy on making sure I could get my shifts covered and feeling very satisfied about that and zero energy thinking about lost pay. So last week a check that is usually between $300 and $400 was …. $43. SURPRISE, you should have thought of that dummy, alas. Anyway, I ended up having to do something that I haven’t had to do in a very long time, and even had vowed to never do again, and that is: Asked my dad to front me the money so I could pay my bills. And he did, and I’m paying him back when I get my next check. So. What was the question? Oh how I am going to deal with that. Well I think my dad’s loan will help me stay afloat, and one perk of being sick with a fever in bed for 4 days is: I spent $0. So I’m not toooo worried. It’ll all work out! But it was a nice reminder about emergency savings and why that is important.

Mike: And what do you do if you don’t have emergency savings or a person who is willing to front you that money? (Note to self: figure out how to do a story about this.) I’m trying to recall what I did the last time I was sick, but I just vaguely remember being in bed and doing my best to work while medicated. But I suppose if I had lost some income, I would have worked some contacts and looked for additional side work to make up the money. Once you’re behind it can get hard to catch back up. I do kind of miss working at a place with paid sick days and being able to stay home and do nothing but sleep and rest up until I felt better. That was kind of a luxury.

Logan: Yeah it really is—I’ve only had paid sick days a couple times. My parents both worked for the state, one in a university, one in the public school system, so they always had great benefits and paid time off—I never felt like either of them had any stress about staying home. Or maybe they were just hiding it, but I don’t think so. I remember having sort of a lightbulb moment the first time I had sick days—like, oh, I can stay home. Actually it was only the second time I had paid sick days that I used them and had that lightbulb moment. The first job I had, I did have paid days off, but I felt like I was too busy to ever not work. It was a small company and there wasn’t anyone to do the work if I wasn’t there. So I technically had time off, but I didn’t feel like I could use it.

Mike: My mother is self-employed, and I remember whenever she got sick she’d be like, “Oh no. I can’t be sick. This can’t be happening.” And then she’d say something like, “This is why you need money for a rainy day.” So, does this mean you’re starting an emergency savings account?

Logan: Yes, for the 43rd time, I’m sure. HA. HA HA HA. My intent is pure and my follow through impeccable. Obviously.

Mike: Well, I’m glad you’re at least feeling better, Logan!



32 Comments / Post A Comment

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Feel better Logan! People in the Open Thread were wondering where you were.

On another note, I have paid sick days (thankfully) but often never feel that I’m sick enough to take them (had mornings where the thought process was “Should I go to work? I don’t feel well, but it’s not *that* bad.). What line do you draw when deciding whether to stay home?

omgkitties (#206)

@CubeRootOfPi I generally try to get to work. I figure if I can get up, get dressed, and show up, I can usually tough it out. And if not, I tried!

(Given, this works best for ‘I’m not feeling tops and wouldn’t it be soooo niiiice to stay in bed today’ situations, not ‘omg gonna get sick right now’ ones.)

ThatJenn (#916)

@CubeRootOfPi My decision is based on (1) how much they need me that day (usually measured by meetings and who else is out right now), (2) how annoyed/worried I would be if my coworker showed up in my condition and (3) how much sick leave I have. If the answers approximate (1) they can get by fine and nobody has an immovable appointment with me, (2) at least a little bit, and (3) plenty, I stay home. We have a generous sick allotment and my boss, though she rarely stays home herself, is pretty understanding. That said, I usually try to check my email around noon or 4 to see if anything blew up while I was gone.

Beans (#1,111)

I have a crapload of paid sick days at my office job (I think I’m up to 25 right now). The thing is, I have not gotten sick enough to warrant staying home in the 2+ years I’ve been at my job. But I have gotten a few of these 2 week-long half-colds, where you’re not congested or run down or feeling shitty, just have a slightly runny nose. Which sucks because people will glare at you at work, thinking you are infecting them. But am I really supposed to stay home for 2 straight weeks while my nose runs a bit?

facepalm (#4,409)

@Beans This! I get 8 hours per month and it just keeps accruing. In 3.5 years I now have like a month of sick time. The problem is I’ve had the like half plague going on two and a half weeks and sure I could use sick time, but I just got back from a two week vacation. I feel like I should just suck it up and am, but no one wants to be around me while I sound so stuffy.

EmilyAnomaly (#4,238)

Hope you’re feeling better, Logan, and make sure to take the full course of those antibiotics!

Where I work, I do not have designated sick day. I have paid time off that is what I take it for. This sort of gives me incentive to stay healthy so that I can use most of that time for vacation. Before I worked for this corporation, I worked for a small company that gave me a separate fund of sick days, and my attitude was more like, “I don’t need a flu shot/full nights of sleep!”. In actuality, I think I only took 3 sick days in three years

echolikebells (#3,272)

I have designated sick time; where I work, we accrue the time in increments of a couple of hours per paycheck. I have about a weeks-worth right now, but only because I am not shy about taking sick time. If I am sick to my stomach or think I might get others sick, I don’t go. I figure they’d rather me use the sick time and not pretend like I’m working if I’m too sick/out of it to work.

I love having sick time. It is one of the main perks of my job.

andnowlights (#2,902)

I have sick time, personal time, holiday time and vacation time. My employer is switching to a new plan, though, in July (for my side of things) and we’re actually losing 7 days of that combined time. The plus side is that now we don’t have to use sick time as “sick” time anymore. I’m still really irritated about losing those 7 days, though. That’s a lot of time! I don’t get paid great for what I do (my title is admin assistant but it’s really straight up administration) so my vacation/sick time was really a great benefit… not so much anymore.

Allison (#4,509)

I get 13 sick days a year (as 4 hours/pay period) that just grows and grows and grows. I think I have something like 215 hours now, which is about 5 weeks. My commute is also really short so some mornings I go in while questioning the “am I sick or just sad about getting out of bed?” only to come home by 9:30.

I do wish I had done that back in September, I was out of work for 3 days because I was the sickest I’d ever been, I really should have left when I started changing colors (per a coworker) that Monday. By the third day I felt way better but was definitely not actually well yet, so it was nice to not need to go in for $$.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

My sick days are built into my paid time off and like another commenter, I’m trying to keep healthy. My first year at work I got pretty sick, but last year I really focused on staying healthy, because with a wedding/honeymoon/etc fun days I wanted to use them all for that and not for sick time. With my new position though, there is some more flexibility, since my manager is more lax about us working from home, so if I’m having a day where I’m feeling under the weather but I can still sit upright, I’ll take the day and work from home (with plenty of napping).

deepomega (#22)

*clears throat gently*

*stands on milk crate*


sea ermine (#122)

@deepomega so I’ve heard your reasoning on this and I get it but I do think it’s fair to say that there is a huge difference between a job that lets you stay home when you are sick and pays you for doing 0 work vs a job that will not pay you if you don’t come in because you are home sick.

And I don’t think that companies that offer mythical/imaginary sick days would start paying you more if they eliminated paid sick days, certainly not enough to cover the stress of unexpectedly missing pay (since you can’t plan to be sick).

Marzipan (#1,194)

@deepomega Okay, yeah, you’ve said this a lot and I think I read the reasoning and all and I don’t remember it all exactly so please feel free to give me a refresher but I remember feeling like I didn’t understand how your reasoning supported your conclusion. I mean, I have a job now where I get a salary and vacation/sick etc days. Those days are a benefit that are part of compensation package, so I am getting a benefit – time off – that is roughly equivalent to money. There are some jobs where you get this benefit and some where you don’t. If I get paid the same amount at two jobs, but one I have sick days and one I don’t, how is that not “real”? I mean, if you have two companies giving you two offers, and one had more sick days, then they have made a decision to offer you a better package, which is good. Just because it’s not “free” money doesn’t mean it’s not a real compensatory benefit? I really don’t get why you think they are imaginary.

and I’m also not sure what your point is? If your point is you don’t LIKE sick days as a form of compensation and would prefer that they were got rid of across-the-board, that is one thing but does not mean they aren’t real, and in any case, your point is kind of like whenever tipping comes up, being the guy who is like, “The europeans don’t tip, we shouldn’t tip.” well, maybe, but, that’s not going to happen, and we live in a county with tipping, so sometimes we have to think about tipping and figuring out how to do it right and other things related to it.

Goodie (#5,447)

@deepomega can you please explain why they are a myth?

sea ermine (#122)

@Marzipan Yeah I think, from what I understood of @deepomega’s theory is that you don’t totally know your exact compensation because your employer isn’t explicitly revealing the monetary value of your sick/vacation days to you. Which, ok fine (although I think, if you’re paid hourly, it’s pretty easy to spend 5 seconds with a calculator and figure out how much your sick days are worth). But I think for most workers it’s preferable to have an imaginary sick day and have the benefit of not getting a surprise pay cut when you’re already feeling like crap, than to know exactly down to the penny what you’re worth to your employer.

I also think it’s super relevant that most jobs without sick days and vacation days are fairly low paying. My boyfriend just started a job with no benefits (no sick days, no vacation days, no health insurance, etc) and while that may sound like a dream job to @deepomega it does mean that if my boyfriend gets sick or needs to take time off for an emergency he gets completely screwed over and has to worry about being able to afford his rent/food/etc on top of going to the doctor (without insurance). And vacation isn’t an option because paying for a vacation on top of losing money at work is just not ok. I technically make less than he does but I have 10 days paid sick time and 27 paid vacation days and it is so much better than knowing exactly what I’m worth.

I do think this is something that would be much more likely to benefit the upper middle class/wealthy. I don’t know how much @deepomega makes but maybe it’s more important to him to know what he’s worth because he can afford to suddenly not get paid for a few days. From what I remember of the vacation days conversation his solution was to make it illegal for a company to fire someone for taking more than 5 sick days/10 vacation days and then have the employee just not get paid for the days they choose not to come in. Which, for me would not only mean that I would get less time off/possibly get fired for taking the time off that I’m currently allowed to take it would also mean if I got really sick, as I did last week for 3 days, I would not be able to pay my bills. So, I don’t see how that’s a benefit to anyone but employers who care more about making life hard for their employees than it is for the employees themselves, particularly middle class employees who would not be able to negotiate a higher hourly wage just buy saying their pass on their mythical benefits as an exchange.

Not to insult @deepomega, as his/her idea is definitely super interesting, but I think more people would benefit from having mandatory paid sick days/vacation time and deepomega can then personally negotiate with his/her employers to request that he not get paid on his days off, in exchange for a higher hourly rate.

Human Centipaul (#3,559)

@sea ermine The difference between “imaginary” sick days and no sick days is also the setting of expectations. By providing employees with x number of sick days, employers are tacitly indicating acceptance of you not showing up when you’re sick. If you get rid of a pool of sick days and shift to a scenario where there’s no formal structure around accepted absence, then you’re asking for a lot more individual responsibility and reasonableness for all parties. It’s currently a policy that cuts out the difficulty of needing to request a pass from management every time you eat some bad pork. It also puts a barrier on management holding grudges against people who take their duly appointed sick days. Yeah, in some jobs (mine included) you get more PTO than you’re really expected to take, but you’re still expected to take some.

sea ermine (#122)

@Human Centipaul Exactly. I have 10 sick days and while I definitely wont take them all I know that if I was really sick I could. This is a big deal for me because I have some health issues that popped up this year that I’ve been going to the doctor a lot for, and I can use sick time for that (which is huge, because I cannot afford to take that time unpaid). If I didn’t have that not only would I not know how much is appropriate to take I also wouldn’t be able to afford it, and so would be way more likely to come into work sick and infect my coworkers. There is so much more to this than just the dollar amount of all the benefits you get.

The full-time university lecturer position that I just lost after six years had no sick or vacation leave, although I could have (maybe) qualified for paid medical leave if needed. Luckily I was fairly healthy during that time. It would have been nice to get some unused vacation and sick pay when the job ended though.

Derbel McDillet (#1,241)

At my job (state university), we accrue 18 sick days per year (separate from vacation days and holidays)and there is no cap. Also, no doctor’s note necessary until you’ve missed more than 5 consecutive days. I have ZERO shame about taking sick days. I’ve taken 4 in the 8 months I’ve worked there, and I will admit that they were all essentially mental health days.

At my previous company, we accrued sick leave, but could not access it until the fourth consecutive day of absence. Employees had to use 3 days of vacation before beginning to use sick leave on the fourth day, and a doctor’s note was required.

Crabtree (#774)

I’m on contract so I don’t get any vacation or sick days, which is the worst since I’ll be working there for a year and I didn’t have either in my least year long job either. I get my flu shot and drink all the orange juice and green tea I can and hope it doesn’t happen

samburger (#5,489)

I just transitioned from contract (no sick days) to employee (sick days!). I get a total of 24 ‘personal days’ every year, 6 of which are designated sick days, the rest vacation. As far I can tell, there’s no difference between sick and vacation days?

foofyq (#4,309)

Maaan, I used to have unlimited sick days, but people were “taking advantage” so now we only have 5 a year and I’ve already used 3 of them….(the year started in October or something like that). It was so nice to have unlimited.

Non-anonymous (#1,288)

I am strongly opposed to having combined “personal days” instead of separate vacation and sick days. Do they encourage you to stay healthy so you can have more vacation? Well, maybe. But they also encourage the guy next to you to come into work with a raging case of the flu, for exactly the same reason.

Another thing: sick days aren’t just for when you’re actually sick. I’m a big believer in taking half a sick day whenever I have a doctor or dentist appointment. Or when your kid does, if you’re a parent. (My employer’s sick day policy explicitly allows this.)

Goodie (#5,447)

@Non-anonymous I get sick days and carers leave days. Carers leave can be used when someone in your household is sick, or an immediate family member and you are reuiqred to look after them. The person in your hosuehold even counts if its a random housemate.

DarlingMagpie (#1,695)

I have paid sick days for the first time in my entire life and I take less now, because it’s one thing to say “I’m missing out on x amount of dollars BUT I’M SICK” rather than “Oh shit, I’ll have so much more due if I don’t go in at all”

Stuff that would be mitigated if I was able to work from home more efficiently but noooo…

qwer1234 (#4,140)

I started a new job in September, and even though I’m part time, I get sick days? But I have no idea how it works or who keeps track of that now that the person who otherwise would take care of that is gone? I’m chronically ill, but my boss won’t let me work from home even though that’s what we help other companies do and there is 124% absolutely no reason I need to be onsite. I didn’t go in on Tuesday, but I have no idea if I’m going to get paid or not.

Goodie (#5,447)

@qwer1234 at my place of work the part timers got sick leave at a pro-rata rate, so if you work 50% of the time of a fulltimer then your sick leave entitlement is 50% of what they get.

shannowhamo (#845)

@qwer1234 Ug, so jealous. I have two part time jobs and no sick time or vacation time (one of the jobs pays holiday pay, so that’s nice!) I’m usually fairly content (resigned) to my work situation but then I’m reminded of this magical world where people have benefits and it makes me sad. But, in the universe’s defense, the last time I had sick days at work I abused it horribly and called in constantly because I hated my job. So there’s that.

Wow never heard of part timers getting sick days that’s great Qwer1234

annev17 (#4,822)

I’ve got unlimited paid sick days (Europe) but starting from the second consecutive day you’re out, you have to bring in a doctor’s note. I guess that avoids abuse of the system, but it is a little annoying to do for instance when you know you just have a nasty cold you’ve got to tough out in bed for a day or 2, cause you have to make an appointment and pay the co-pay.

I have paid sick leave, but I also work in a job where actually taking sick days is complicated and political and involves a domino chain of rescheduling other people to make sure everything is covered. Hard to do without advance notice. I’ve done things like work through a week of strep or flu or whatever and then take a day off as soon as it’s feasable just to catch up on things at home.

The one area in which I really, really appreciate my sick days is in managing a few chronic conditions. I have some medium-serious health problems that are generally totally fine if monitored and medicated, but can be tough when there are flare-ups. Being able to schedule regular appointments with multiple practices ahead of time and then being able to adjust my schedule around sick-leave is an enormous help. That said, I recently switched all of my health care to a clinic that has multiple specialties on site and coordinated care, in part because it is awesome for me, but largely because it will help me keep my time away from work to a minimum.

I went through my 20’s as a freelancer (no work, no pay) with no health insurance, and I accrued a lot of debt once I started really needing health care. Honestly, about 60% of my decision to go to graduate school was so I could have a few years of health insurance while I sorted things out.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

I get 40 hours / year of sick time (which does not roll over, so never more than 40 hours). If we are sick beyond that, the time will be taken out of the 80 hours of vacation (also does not roll over). But a couple years ago I had to have surgery after having used up all my sick & vacation times, and they were just all ‘whatever’ about the four more days I missed. (It’s probably more trouble for them to alter payroll to not pay me I guess.) It’s a small company that I’ve been with for several years…
I usually take most of my sick time – I try to stay home if I’m feeling contagious even if I could do my work.

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