Half of food-industry staffers won't skip work when sick

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Why Don't Private Sector Workers Have Paid Sick Leave?

According to a poll conducted by the Center for Research and Public Policy for Alchemy Systems, the majority of food-service workers in Canada and the United States are unwilling to miss work when sick. Just over half, or 51 percent, of the 1,200 individuals polled, who were drawn from all segments of the industry (restaurants, farms, grocery stores) answered that they always, or frequently, will go to work when ill.

The reasons come down, unsurprisingly, to economics and loyalty. More than 45 percent say they simply can't afford to lose the money — Christine Gnecco, an employee of Olive Garden restaurants in Eerie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, tells the International Business Times, "It feels like I'm walking away from $150" — while 46 percent attribute the decision to not wanting to put fellow employees in a bad position. Independent restaurants, for example, can be run as shoestring operations, with just enough people needed for the kitchen to function. Further, low pay and a common lack of protections like paid sick leave mean a day off can be too big a loss to bear.

The potential problem for diners, of course, is when workers have a contagious and easily spreadable illness, like salmonella or norovirus — which officials believe caused an outbreak at a Chipotle in California earlier this year — it can wreak havoc.

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