Sick Pay Laws and Travel Nursing

Many people in the United States face a tough choice when they get sick on a workday. For people in hourly positions, this can be especially painful since many hourly positions don’t offer paid sick or emergency leave.

You may have heard the United States is the no-vacation nation, but the lack of paid sick days and sick pay is a major issue, especially in the health and hospitality industries. As a nurse, working while sick can potentially compromise patient health even further. So why do nurses feel they must choose between taking care of themselves or their bank accounts? Some sick pay leave laws are changing, positively impacting travel nurses.

Sick pay benefits

Even if they don’t affect nurses directly, paid sick days can make a huge difference in a community’s health. According to a 2016 study, areas that required paid sick leave decreased the rate of the general flu by 5.5%. Allowing paid sick leave may help reduce turnover — and the associated costs — by workers leaving to seek positions with better benefits or by workers being fired after a serious illness.

Working sick

Paid and unpaid days aside, a survey found 83% of health care workers came to work sick at least once in the past year, even though 95% believed working while sick risked patient health. The main reason? They didn’t want to let their teams down or leave their units understaffed.

While admirable, we need to reassess how we view sick days in health care. Supporting sick leave within your own workplace and in your state can do just that.

The state of sick leave in the United States

Thirteen states and Washington D.C. have enacted laws to require paid sick leave, upon meeting the requirements, applies to travel nurses. These states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. However, state-specific requirements and employee eligibility vary.

  • Arizona requires at least one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked unless you already have at least 40 hours of paid time off.
  • CaliforniaMaryland, and Massachusetts require one hour for every 30 hours worked, but the ability to use accumulated sick days doesn’t start until 90 days after the start of employment.
  • Connecticut requires one hour for every 40 hours worked for a maximum of 40 paid hours off a year. Employees can use these days after the first 30 days of employment.
  • New Jersey paid sick leave takes effect Oct. 29, 2018. Per diem, health care employees are exempt from the mandate.
  • Oregon requires business owners with more than 10 employees to give employees 40 hours of sick leave at the start of each year.
  • Vermont states that people who are employed for less than 20 weeks are exempt from the paid leave mandate.
  • Washington employers, like Connecticut employers, must offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of work, but employees can’t use it until after 90 days of work.

While some states may not have statewide policies, certain cities within those states could have their own sick leave mandates. For a more detailed list, click here.

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