Sick Leave Policy Around the World
Sick leave policy is becoming a trending topic, what with the Coronavirus epidemic on everyone’s mind! The HR department of your organization might already be thinking about a contingency plan if the disease is discovered in your area.
Surely, the right precautions must be followed to avoid contracting the virus. Nevertheless, if you do get sick, it will likely not be from the coronavirus. All coronavirus discussions aside, it’s possible that you will need to take a sick leave before the winter is over. In fact, it’s even quite probable.
Hence, while you do your best to avoid the virus, it’s the perfect time to read up on your work’s sick leave policy. While we’re on the topic, you might also be interested in knowing how this type of leave is handled all over the world.
The data below is from a report called “Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries”.
Sick Leave Policy Around The World: An Overview
In the following countries, there generally are national paid-sick-day and paid-sick-leave systems. The sick leaves indicated here go beyond the traditional regular sick leave days. To get access to these leave policies, employees need to have documents from certified medical professionals. As we will see, the only country where there is no protection in place for workers who fall ill is the US.
The countries and their various policies are listed alphabetically below:
Australia to Germany:
- Australia gives its workers a full 10 days, at 100% of their pay and benefits.
- Austria allows for up to 6 weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of salary. Additionally, for serious illness, employees can take an additional 4 weeks off at 50% of their salary. With such excellent benefits, one would assume that proper documentation from medical professionals is required.
- Belgium grants 1 month of paid sick leave for white-collar workers at 100%. Meanwhile, blue-collar workers only get 7 days at 100%. Then, up to 2 additional weeks can be taken at 60% of a regular salary.
- Canada offers 12 weeks of job protection, but the amount of paid leave will depend on the company.
- Denmark allows for 2 fully paid weeks for the private sector.
- Finland gives the first 9 days at full pay, then if the employee is still ill, it will keep the employee employed, and even will continue paying a portion of his or her salary if he or she takes no more than 300 sick days in a 2-year period. Finland is definitely generous with its sick workers!
- France offers a partial salary, 50%, over 12 months within a 3-year period.
- Germany grants 6 weeks at 100%. If the illness persists, German workers can take up to 78 weeks off in a 3-year period, while still receiving 70% of their salary.
Greece to the Netherlands:
- Greece allows for 2 weeks of fully paid sick leave. For persisting illness, anywhere between 180 to 720 days could be taken at a fraction of salary. The large variation depends on the type of illness, and also on each individual company’s sick leave policy.
- Iceland grants an easy 12 days per year to anyone for any type of sick leave. However, for serious illnesses, it’s possible to take up to 52 weeks in a 2-year period.
- Ireland allows for up to 52 weeks of paid leave, however, salary is greatly reduced during this time.
- Italy gives us workers the first 20 days of sick leave at 50%. Yet, starting from the 21st day, and for up to 180 days, the salary actually increases for the sick worker to 66% of his previous salary. That’s a nice policy, given that no one actually wishes to be sick for more than 20 days in a year!
- Japan offers up to 18 months at 60% salary for serious illnesses only. They have clear and strict definitions of what a serious illness means.
- Luxembourg lets employees take the first 77 days off for an illness at 100% of their salary.
- The Netherlands very generously offers 2 years, at 70% of the salary to any worker that falls gravely ill. However, minimum wage may not be guaranteed in the 2nd
New Zealand to the United Kingdom:
- New Zealand grants a basic 5 days in a 12-month period for sick days. Companies may have specific policies
- Norway lets sick employees have up to 16 calendar days to recover, while still receiving 100% of their pay. Yet, if still ill, they can take up to 52 weeks, if they are able to obtain the correct proof from a medical professional.
- Spain also grants 16 days but reduces salary to 60% of what it is originally. Most companies will also offer up to 20 days at 60%. However, from the 21st day and up to 12 months, employees can earn up to 75% of their original salary.
- Sweden allows for the first 14 days of a longer-term sick leave to be taken at 80% of the salary. If still ill, employees can take up to 364 days over a 15-month period at 80% of their salary. In extreme cases, an extension of up to 550 days is possible at 75% of tax. Interestingly, for more serious illnesses, no formal maximum is determined. Therefore employees may be on leave for multiple years at 70% of their salary. This is possibly the most generous national sick leave policy.
- Switzerland grants 3 fully paid weeks of sick leave.
- The United Kingdom gives employees up to 28 weeks. If still ill, 13 weeks of what’s called an “assessment phase” can be used to monitor the person’s condition. Afterward, additional periods of leave can be determined.
Last, And Also Least: The United States
- Finally, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not offer a comprehensive leave policy at the government level. The same goes for important policies such as maternity and paternity leave as well.
A conservative estimate states that 20 million Americans make it out of their beds and into work on days that they are not feeling well. The main reason for this type of behavior is simply because they do not have paid sick leave.
Why Sick Leave Policy Matters
You wouldn’t want anyone with COVID-19 to be coming into your workplace, would you? Well, then you should have a solid sick leave policy!
Even when the whole world is not overreacting or under-reacting about the coronavirus, sick leave can often be an important concern for workers. Yet, we might not fully understand why it really matters to have a detailed sick leave policy written up for your organization.
When a company has no policy for taking paid time off for illnesses, employees might continue to work while they are sick simply because they can’t afford to! This can be a risk. It’s not only a risk to these sick employees, but also to everyone that shares a workspace with them.
In fact, research quoted as part of the nationwide study reflected above indicates that it’s important to allow employees the proper amount of sick leave. A few days of sick leave could be the difference between a small illness turning into something severe.
As previously stated, a working employee can spread an infectious illness in the workplace. This spread can happen with the shake of a hand, with the touch of a doorknob or coffee pot, or printer. If the contagious employee touches any surface, germs are likely to spread. No matter how often you use Purell sanitizer, even being really careful is not enough for air-borne illnesses.
Overall, it is generally recommended that people who are sick or might be contagious stay home. If your policy doesn’t grand at least a few courtesy days, employees will feel the pressure of coming in, and will therefore be putting their colleagues at risk.
Working Remotely Could Be The Answer
Therefore, it seems inevitable that a sick employee could infect others. This could cause a chain reaction that leads to your whole team being out of the office. That could mean serious impacts on projects and deliverables.
What if there could be another solution?
If you have been campaigning for remote work, then the outbreak of the coronavirus might not seem all that negative to you!
With this current outbreak of Coronavirus, public health officials have been recommending that adults stay home from work and that children stay home from school. In many cases, these measures are purely preventative. Therefore, many companies have made it possible for employees to work from home.
However, this could be the answer for the parent of a sick child. Yet, if a working adult is affected by a serious illness, it will not be possible for them to work at all. That is why, although offering the option of remote might be nice, it does not replace a robust sick leave policy.