Medical studies “consistently” show people with no sick leave are more likely to go to work and expose others to infection, she noted.

Research also shows that if these workers have children who are sick, they have no choice but to send them to school sick because they can’t afford to stay home with them or to pay for a babysitter, the letter adds.

“A lack of paid sick days results in children and adults transmitting infections at school and work, exacerbating contagion throughout the province,” it says.

A U.S. study of the H1N1 virus outbreak in the fall of 2009 found nearly eight million infected employees in the U.S. took no time off work, likely due to the lack of paid sick days. The study estimates an additional seven million people were subsequently infected by those ill workers.

“Two of five private sector employees have no access to paid sick days, leaving the nation ill-prepared for the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ pandemic or for future outbreaks of contagious diseases,” says the 2010 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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