This health impact assessment (HIA) addressed a Maine-specific version of the federal Healthy Families Act, a bill that would have entitled an employee to accrue paid sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to nine days per year. The pathways and health issues explored included: 1) the spread of communicable diseases, such as influenza and stomach flu through workers at restaurants, schools and nursing homes; 2) the income and stress-related impacts of loss of salary and employer retaliation for missing work; and 3) the potential effects on emergency room use and delayed medical care.
The HIA found that over 100,000 ER visits and 15,000 hospitalizations were preventable, based on hospital inpatient data from the Maine Health Data Organization. Through focus groups, the HIA found that workers are concerned regarding access to paid sick days and access to healthcare, delayed healthcare, and hospitalization; ability to care for dependents; infecting co-workers and customers; and overall feeling of not having basic rights as workers and feeling lack of trust from employers.
The HIA received press coverage in Maine and helped shift the policy debate to include health outcomes.