In Sickness and Health

WHAT IS OUR responsibility to expectant mothers, workers suffering from prolonged illness, or parents with children dealing with a significant sickness? Many Christians will assume the “our” in question refers to individual believers or the church as a community of believers. But what if the “our” refers to society as a whole? How is the question answered then?

This is more than an abstract question. Across the U.S.—at local, state, and federal levels—governments are debating policies that would expand paid sick leave. The issue itself isn’t complicated: Some workers have paid time off when they or a family member falls ill, while tens of millions of others—disproportionately low-wage workers—do not. The latter often face the difficult choice of struggling through shifts while sick or staying home and putting their livelihoods at risk.

The benefits of paid sick leave policies are well documented, with studies detailing the economic benefits paid sick leave provides by lowering employee turnover and training costs, reducing public-assistance spending, and improving productivity. “Working sick costs the national economy $160 billion annually in lost productivity,” according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Even greater gains can be realized when expanded family leave policies are included.

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