Well-designed paid sick leave is critical to ensure workers stay home when sick to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious pathogens, both when the economy is open and during an economic shutdown. To assess whether paid sick leave is available in countries around the world, we created and analysed a database of legislative guarantees of paid leave for personal illness in 193 UN member states. Original labour and social security legislation and global information on social security systems for each country were obtained and analysed by a multilingual research team using a common coding framework. While strong models exist across low- middle- and high-income countries, critical gaps that jeopardise health and economic security remain. 27% of countries do not guarantee paid sick leave from the first day of illness, essential to encouraging workers to stay home when they are sick and prevent spread. 58% of countries do not have explicit provisions to ensure self-employed and gig economy workers have access to paid sick leave benefits. Comprehensive paid sick leave policies that cover all workers are urgently needed if we are to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and be ready to respond to threats from new pathogens.
Keywords: COVID-19; global policy analysis; infectious disease spread; paid sick leave; workplace.
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