With unlimited paid sick leave for coronavirus symptoms, why will anyone work?

Friends on Facebook are demanding that the Federal government (i.e., taxpayers) underwrite unlimited paid sick leave in order to stop the coronavirus plague.

This sounds reasonable. We don’t want an infected person coming into work at a restaurant and spreading the infection to 100 customers.

But, on the other hand, especially since our testing capabilities are so limited, wouldn’t this result in 100 percent of people with less-than-fun jobs disappearing from the workforce? Why take the risk of contact with hundreds of customers by working as a supermarket cashier when it is easy to say “I am experiencing some coronavirus symptoms and therefore, out of an abundance of caution, I am staying home to collect my Gov Sick Leave”? (Americans love nothing more than saying “out of an abundance of caution”!).

People who believe themselves to be suffering from a mild cause of COVID-19 aren’t supposed to go to the doctor or hospital, right? So the employer can’t ask for a doctor’s note.

If our policy dreams come true, will the result be a complete shutdown of the typical service business? Or, actually, almost every business. The only thing better than “work from home” is “play Xbox at home and get a 100 percent paycheck”!

Readers: Is there any possible way to design this so that people who do feel well (something no doctor can determine) will continue to work while ensuring that people who don’t feel well will stay home?

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9 thoughts on “With unlimited paid sick leave for coronavirus symptoms, why will anyone work?

  1. It is uncharitable of you to think that “100 percent of people with less-than-fun jobs” would stop working. Aside from money, I have other motivations to work. I’m an IT Manager and I’d say while I enjoy what I do, only ~%20 of it is what I would call fun.

    • Phil: By a “less than fun” job I was thinking more about someone who stocks shelves at a retail store than someone who sits at a desk! But how many Americans have truly been tested with this temptation? “Leave your desk for 2-3 months, still get the same paycheck, and suffer no disapproval” is an offer that has never previously been made. In fact, the person who decamps may get APPROVAL: “out of an abundance of caution, he is protecting society by staying home and playing Xbox.”

  2. Implement large scale mandatory testing for the corona virus. The corona virus drive through implemented in South Korea (and now in some parts of the US) is a good model. Anybody that tests positive is quarantined, and everybody else has to go back to work. Profit and stock market value is much more important than health. In a Capitalist market, survival of the fittest is the most important, a virus killing off the old and sick should not be able to hold back profit and your stock price. The corona virus vacation (CVV) is over, now back to work!

    I am surprised that a capitalist country like the US has problems with this simple solution.

    • A note to readers: Pavel is a foreigner who is trying to interfere in our elections. This may be a crime!

    • Sam:
      Is this a crime? Perhaps not in his country.
      Pavel:
      We are still waiting for this Justin guy who was supposed to bring us Corona.

    • M: There was a last minute change, we sent the Brazilian to deliver the Corona, but Trump did not accept.
      Toucan Sam: I reported to the border today and explained that I am trying to interfere in the election. The border guards said that they are too busy with the corona and told me to go home and isolate myself for the next two weeks.

      Interfering in Canada is not a crime, just take a look at all the pipeline protesters paid for by the US oil industry currently operating in Canada.

  3. Charles Murray’s book Losing Ground talks about a similar problem. In Chapter 16 he walks through designing a government program to pay people to quit smoking and concludes that any program you could come up with will either (1) have no effect on smoking, or (2) actually increase smoking.

  4. If tests do in fact soon become widely available, would it be feasible to require anyone applying for paid sick leave to have a test result demonstrating infection?

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