Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Restaurant Workers Need Paid Sick Days: It’s Good for the Public, Good for Business, and Good for the Workers

With over 85% of workers in restaurants lacking paid sick days, many are forced to come to work sick rather than lose their pay or possibly their job. When eating at a restaurant your plate comes into contact with person at least 4 times giving germs and illness numerous opportunities to be spread from a sick worker to the general public. Restaurant workers need paid sick days to ensure the health of the public at large.

  • As a result of the fact that workers cannot afford to take care of themselves or stay home when they are sick, two-thirds of restaurant workers (63.6%) report working sick, unnecessarily placing co-workers and diners at risk. 19.9% have reported that they caused other workers to become sick and 12% have coughed or sneezed into food that was served because they worked while sick.
  • Nearly half of stomach “flu”-related outbreaks caused by the norovirus are linked to ill food-service workers —and they are among the least likely to have earned sick time.

“Illness runs in cycles at restaurants. At all times someone is sick because we cannot take time to stay home to get better. Despite our best efforts to wash our hands and sanitize the restaurant when you are sick you cannot help but spread germs. I cannot imagine what germs and illnesses customers go home with.” – Philadelphia server

The Restaurant Industry is one that sees extremely high turnover. In addition, a worker will be less productive and the customer will likely have a less enjoyable experience is the worker is sick. Paid sick days can save the restaurant owner money through reduced turnover, increased loyalty, and a better overall experience for the customer.
  • If workers could earn seven paid sick days a year, our national economy would experience a net savings of $8.1 billion a year due to increased productivity and reduced turnover.
  • The costs of replacing workers, including advertising open positions, interviewing, and training replacements, are often greater than the costs of paid sick time to retain existing workers.
  • 24% of restaurant workers have reported that they could not complete tasks for work because they were sick.
Paid sick days "is the best public policy for the least cost.”
Kevin Westlye, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association
In Philadelphia tipped restaurant workers are paid $2.83 and hour and the median overall take home pay is $11.40 an hour. So many are struggling to make ends meet and the thought of missing work because they are sick and possibly losing their job is not an option. In addition to being good for public health and restaurants, paid sick days is about basic fairness for workers.
  • The Restaurant Industry is one of the largest private sector employers in the nation with 10 million employees nationwide. Despite the current recession, the Restaurant Industry continues to grow yet the workers are not afforded basic rights like paid sick days
  • A majority of restaurant workers surveyed reported facing high rates of exposure to dangerous working conditions: 38.1% reported doing something while working to put their own safety at risk, 49.5% had been cut on the job, and 45.8% had been burned on the job.
  • In addition, 34.6% of restaurant worker have reported having to do things under time pressure that might have harmed the health and safety of the consumer.

Philadelphia is a city with a strong restaurant industry. Despite the growing industry, restaurant workers continue to lack basic needs like paid sick days, putting their own health and the health of the entire city at risk. Paid sick days would help to keep the community healthy while giving restaurant workers some flexibility to care for themselves and family members and help businesses by boosting worker loyalty and reducing turnover. 

For more information about the needs of Restaurant Workers in Philadelphia visit the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia.

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