A recent poll by the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP) for Alchemy Systems revealed that half the workers in the food industry often go to work while being sick.

For the study 1,200 food workers at all stages of the food supply chain, including farms, processing plants, cafeterias, restaurants, and grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada were polled by Alchemy Systems. This institution works with companies and organizations across the food system to improve safety and operations.

Citing concerns over lost wages, 45 percent of the workers said they go to work sick because they can’t afford to lose one payment. More than 46 percent said they didn’t want to let their co-workers down by not showing up for a shift. In general 51 percent of employees reported they always or frequently go to work when sick. This comes with managers answering they thought just 18 percent of employees came to work in that state.

Credits: The Huffington Post/ Getty

This tendency can lead to serious public health consequences, as for instance, The Salt reported last year that the vast majority of reported cases of norovirus have been linked to infected food industry workers presenting foodborne disease outbreaks and illnesses across the country

“The food industry faces a significant challenge to ensuring food workers are educated and aware of the impact of coming to work sick,” the study reported.

One-third of the employees polled didn’t think their viruses and germs were contagious, and only a measly 5 percent of food workers said they’d never come into work with an illness. More than half of the time, infected handlers are the source of foodborne virus outbreaks, and are the ones spreading it 82 percent of the time, the Center for Disease Control reported.

“Though some people might be tempted to point a finger at the workers for going to work sick, the reality of their situation helps explain why they do it” said Jose Oliva, co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. “A lot of these workers actually depend on every single one of the days that they work for money,” Oliva added. “So if you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.”

He also pointed out that the main problem in the equation are low wages as many of the lowest-paying jobs in America are in the food industry, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If workers were better paid they might have more flexibility to take an unpaid day when needed. Already four states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon – have passed legislation to provide paid sick leave, in addition to a number of cities across the country.

Last month, President Obama signed an executive order allowing employees of federal contractors to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.

Source: NY Daily News