Taking a day off work to recover from a nasty cold or flu? For many young and senior workers, a sick day is an unaffordable luxury.
Less than half of Canadian workers aged 65 and older have paid sick days or short-term disability coverage, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.
For 18-24-year-olds, it’s even less common; only 34 per cent have paid sick days and short-term disability coverage.
These vulnerable groups don’t fare much better when it comes to long-term disability coverage. The report — called Disability Management: Opportunities for Employer Action — states that in the case of a chronic illness or disease, only 26 per cent of 18-24-year-old workers and 41 per cent of workers aged 65 and up have long-term disability leave.
The Most Vulnerable Groups
So why are these groups of workers less likely to have coverage? “Both young people and seniors are more likely to have casual, contract or part-time jobs that can be less secure and offer fewer benefits,” says Karla Thorpe, director of leadership and human resources research at the Conference Board of Canada, in a press release. “As we enter a period of tight labour markets, employers will need to think about how to best engage these two segments of workers to ensure they remain healthy and productive at work.”
Pressure And Presenteeism
For these workers, there are real consequences. Knowing that they will not be compensated for taking a day to recover from illness, an employee may feel pressured to come into work despite not feeling well enough to. If that employee chooses to take an unpaid sick day, their earnings take a hit. If a worker without long-term disability coverage is diagnosed with a serious disease or illness that requires them to take a more long-term leave from work, the financial effect can be disastrous.
“A catastrophic injury or illness can prevent employees from earning the income required to sustain their standard of living. Even a relatively short absence from work, if unpaid, can be devastating to an employee’s financial situation,” the report says.
How To Be Proactive Against Loss Of Income Due To Illness
If you’re a worker without coverage, it’s up to you to protect yourself. Start by establishing a rainy day or emergency fund. The most common advice from financial experts is to have a fund with at least three months’ worth of income. The easiest way to get your fund underway is to create a savings account and set up automatic transfers on pay day. You’ll grow your savings without ever missing the money.
Consider keeping this account separate from accounts you may use to be saving for big purchases such as a car or a down payment. Having money specifically earmarked for emergencies such as medical leave will keep you from being tempted to make withdrawals for unrelated purposes.