Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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WORKERS IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY are only human, and like other humans, they get sick. On top of that, service workers actively handle and prepare food and beverages for up to hundreds of people a day, and because of that, they're ideally positioned as vectors for contagious illnesses if they work while sick. That's not only for cus- tomers either, but also for their coworkers, who then repeat the cycle. Ironically, this group of workers is one of the least likely to get paid- sick-leave or even be allowed to stay home while ill. In some states in the U.S.A., paid-sick-leave is mandatory, but at the federal level and in many states it's not. Furthermore, because independent coffee shops often run on razor-thin profi t margins, owners don't always go beyond the call of what is legally required. In the case of paid-sick-leave, it's possible for owners to save both money and trouble by building paid- sick-leave into their bottom line. SERVICE WORKERS ARE IDEAL VECTORS FOR CONTAGION As stated above, service workers are uniquely positioned to do un- intentional harm when working while ill. They come in contact with hundreds of people during a given day, and not only do they touch those people and/or their possessions, they literally prepare foods and beverages that customers put inside their body—essentially fast-tracking contagious illnesses. Ironically, based on a 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workers are actually more likely to work while sick if they are serving more customers in a given day—largely because the primary factors that lead to working sick revolve around pressure to work while sick. The study found that 12 percent of work- ers said they worked when they were sick with vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts during the last year. Workers were more likely to say they had worked when sick if they worked in a restaurant that: • Served more than 300 meals a day • Did not have a policy that requires workers to tell a manager when they are sick • Did not have an on-call worker • Had a manager with less than four years of experience Notably, those factors all involve an element of pressure to work, whether it's an inability to report illness due to lack of paid time off or actual pressure from management not to miss days. According to a 2015 survey conducted by Alchemy Systems, a data and consulting fi rm that works with companies to improve workplace safety and productivity, 51 percent of foodservice workers say they "always" or "frequently" go to work sick, while 38 percent reported going to work sick "sometimes." Even more saliently, 45 percent said they go to work sick either because they can't afford to lose the pay or don't want to let coworkers down. PAID-SICK-LEAVE LAWS AROUND THE COUNTRY AND BEYOND Because the United States federal government does not require em- ployers to offer paid-sick-leave, laws around paid-sick-leave vary from city to city, state to state, and county to county. For example, California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have statewide paid-sick-leave policies. Cities such as Austin, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and several locations in New Jersey have paid-sick-leave policies, while the states that house them don't. The vast majority of states and cities in the United States don't have a paid-sick-leave policy. Outside the U.S.A., national paid-sick-leave policies are pretty stan- dard in developed countries. According to an audit from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, while countries like Norway, Germany, and Luxembourg top the list in terms of both short-term and long- term paid-sick-leave, other countries like Spain, Italy, and Ireland still provide some amount of both short- and long-term paid-sick-leave. The United States is among a minority of developed countries that don't mandate any, along with Canada and Japan (though there is discussion to change this in Canada). Within the United States, the National Partnership for Women and Families reported in 2018 that workers who interact the most with the public are often the least likely to have paid sick days, as 81 percent of foodservice workers lack access to paid sick days. The report noted that workers in these occupations are also more likely to be exposed to contagious illnesses and, in turn, spread illnesses to the public when they are forced to go to work sick. Nearly half (46 percent) of restaurant-associated illness outbreaks involve an infected foodservice worker, and there are approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year. Worse still, workers who can't get treatment right away often get sicker, requiring more lengthy and costly treatment. So while it may be tempting to follow the minimum legal require- ments and not offer paid-sick-leave, it might not be worth it after all. BEYOND THE BARE MINIMUM Independently owned coffee shops typically have slim or nonexistent profi t margins, which makes it harder for owners to think about going beyond the minimum when it comes to paid-sick-leave. Lack of paid- sick-leave combines with circumstances where workers' fi scal margins are equally slim, making it diffi cult for them to take unpaid time off even when ill. Worse, some coffee shops operate with such a tight staff According to data from CDC, the National Part- nership for Women and Families, and Alchemy Data Collection: • 12 percent of foodservice workers reported working while sick two or more times last year • Workers without paid sick days are three times more likely to neglect medical care for themselves and two times more likely to forgo medical care for their families • Over seven in 10 lowest-income workers in the U.S.A. have zero paid sick days • People without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely to work while sick with a contagious illness • 81 percent of foodservice workers and 75 percent of child-care-center workers lack paid-sick-leave • 46 percent of the 48 million restaurant-asso- ciated illness outbreaks per year start with an infected worker • Preventable emergency-room visits among workers lacking paid sick days cost the U.S.A. more than $1.1 billion per year, with nearly half of the costs coming from taxpayer-funded programs. If all workers had paid sick days, 1.3 million emergency room visits could be prevent- ed and that money saved. WORKING WHILE SICK: THE NUMBERS

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