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Paid sick leave: an important safety net for cancer patients

Sick leave eases financial burden, helps ensure job security

paid sick leaveSome patients with cancer experience a serious financial burden. A new study finds the burden is worse for patients without paid sick leave. In a survey of more than 1,300 patients with stage 3 colorectal cancer, researchers found that only 55% who were employed at the time of diagnosis retained their jobs after treatment. Patients who had paid sick leave were nearly twice as likely to retain their jobs as those without paid sick leave.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers found that patients without paid sick leave were more likely to report higher personal financial burden. This includes borrowing money, difficulties making credit card payments, reduced spending for food or clothing, or reduced recreational spending.

After adjusting for factors such as income, education and health insurance, 59% of patients with paid sick leave retained their jobs, while only 33% of those without paid sick leave did.

About 40% of American workers do not have paid sick leave. It is not mandated under the Affordable Care Act or the Family Medical Leave Act.

“Paid sick leave can really support working Americans who have cancer or other issues as they go through their treatment,” says study author Christine Veenstra, M.D., MSPH. “It may help patients retain their jobs and alleviate the financial strain associated with cancer treatment.”

Dr. Veenstra is a medical oncologist at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and member of the u-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation

The study was published in the Vol. 314, No. 24, Dec. 22, 2015 edition of JAMA.

Take the next step:

  • Read more about this study in this press release.
  • Another Cancer Center doctor, Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil, published a study about women with breast cancer and unemployment. Read the press release here.
  • Learn about colorectal cancer, its signs, symptoms and risk factors.

Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.