At a time when the world’s attention is focused on curbing the spread of infectious disease, new research by the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows that strengthening guarantees of paid sick leave is crucial to protecting health and economic security around the globe.

The study, published in the journal Global Public Health, found that 94% of countries mandate some form of paid sick leave at the national level. The United States is one of 11 countries that do not.

Yet, even in nations that guarantee paid time off for illness, the analysis showed critical gaps that undermined the ability of sick workers to follow public health advice and stay home from the very first day of illness. This was true in such countries as Italy and Iran, which were among the hardest hit in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the study noted.

Rules that limit the duration of leave, set low rates of pay and exclude certain classes of employees put countries’ health and economic systems at risk, the study concluded. The global health emergency underscores the consequences.

“The cost of providing paid sick leave is modest compared to the cost of reining in a pandemic,” said Jody Heymann, founder of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and a distinguished professor of public policy, health policy and management, and medicine at UCLA.

Read the full news release.