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About Half Of Working Americans Say They Went To Work Sick In The Last Year

Roughly half of working Americans say they’ve gone to work sick within the past 12 months, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds. 

Forty-seven percent of Americans who work part- or full-time say they’ve gone to work sick in the last year because they couldn’t take time off or because they felt they shouldn’t do so, according to the poll. That could be a particular cause for concern now, with health officials urging sick Americans to stay home as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  

There is no federal paid sick leave law in the United States, though a few states and cities have their own mandatory minimums. This policy failing hits low-income workers the hardest: 70% of the lowest paid workers in the U.S. do not have access to sick leave. 

It’s a particularly troubling datapoint as the U.S. struggles to contain a communicative disease: Those low-income workers are more likely to work in service industries where they regularly come in contact with consumers. 

“When you’re talking about paid leave and who should stay home, it’s the ones who need it most that don’t have access to it, the ones showing up at work sick touching your food, touching your bags, coming into everyday contact with your direct life,” Kris Garcia, an airport worker in Denver, told The New York Times.

Workers with more stringent sick leave policies are far more likely to feel pressured to go to work while sick, the HuffPost/YouGov survey finds: 66% percent of workers whose jobs offer five or fewer paid sick days say they’ve felt compelled to go into work while sick, compared to 36% of those who have more generous policies.

Paid sick leave laws are extremely popular. Three-quarters of Americans favor requiring companies to provide all full-time employees with paid sick days if they or an immediate family member gets sick, with just 11% opposed. The idea is supported by two-thirds of Republicans and more than eight in 10 Democrats.

Congressional Republicans have never cottoned on to the idea. On Friday, House Democrats proposed an emergency paid sick leave law to deal with the coronavirus, but its chances of making it through the Republican-majority Senate are slim.

Even if Americans have sick leave, the high costs of health care create another roadblock. Twenty-seven percent of Americans say that, in the last year, they’ve avoided going to the doctor when they were ill because they couldn’t afford to do so.

There’s also the issue of even getting an appointment with a health care provider. While 63% of Americans say that last time they needed medical attention, they were able to get an appointment in three days or less, 8% had to wait between four and six days. And 10% waited a week or more with 3% reporting they were never able to get an appointment. 

Once again, lower-income Americans are harder hit: 35% of those in households making under $ 50,000 have put off a doctor’s visit for financial reasons, compared to 20% of those in households making $ 100,000 or more. Fifty-six percent in the lowest household income bracket were able to get medical attention within three days, compared to 77% in the highest one.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroup:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 interviews conducted between March 3 and 5 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology is available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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