Sick of being sick?

Ezra Klein opines in favor of paid sick leave:

Indeed, they're not even being a mildly irrational actor. If you'd prefer to sniffle your day through work and use a sick day to take a long weekend, then doing so is perfectly rational. That's not an impulse an employer will ever be able to squelch. Additionally, as a friend just noted to me over IM, if you come in when mildly sick (and contagious), you build up lots of credibility for the day when you're really sick and need to stay home for a bit. That's the American way: We have to leverage working through our mild illnesses to feel justified in taking time off for major sickness.

You could, of course, change this calculation in the margin if all workers got paid sick days and sufficient vacation leave such that they didn't feel they needed to make a zero sum choice between staying home for a cold and being a good worker, or staying home for a cold and going to Tahiti.

There is probably some truth to this. But it bizarrely seems to assume that there is some steep demand in decline for long weekends after you've had three or eight, which is not, in my experience, true. The problem is, whether you call it sick leave or vacation days, a day off is a day off. Many people in America (and the rest of the world) already view their sick leave as a sort of backup vacation, which means that the temptation to hoard them by coming in when you're sniffly is intact. (This is why people in lower-skilled jobs are frequently put through the indignity of having to bring in a doctor's note.) If, as for most people, work is somewhere you'd rather not be, then when given the opportunity not to be there, you won't.

Social and cultural rules can control this to some extent, but they seem to break down over time, which is why the Scandinavian countries, with their generous sick leave policies, are having increasing problems with absenteeism. The problem is worst in Sweden, but it seems to be a concern anywhere that has generous leave policies.

[A] study showed 40 percent believe it is enough to feel tired to stay home and draw benefits.

A survey of 1,002 Swedes by the board also showed 65 percent believed they could go on sick leave if they felt stressed at work and 41 percent thought a conflict with their boss or workmates was a good enough reason.

One fifth thought a strike at the child care center also made them eligible for the benefits and 71 percent said family problems entitled them always or sometimes to sick leave.