So asks the Wall Street Journal (boldface mine):
The bar for taking a sick day is getting lower, and some bosses say that’s a problem.
U.S. workers have long viewed an unwillingness to take sick days as a badge of honor. That’s a laurel workers care much less about these days. The number of sick days Americans take annually has soared since the pandemic, employee payroll data show. Covid-19 and a rise in illnesses such as RSV, which can require days away from work, are one reason. Managers and human-resources executives also attribute the jump to a bigger shift in the way many Americans relate to their jobs.
For one, more workers are using up sick time often for reasons such as mental health. And unlike older workers, who might have been loath to call in sick for fear of seeming weak or unreliable, younger workers feel more entitled to take full advantage of the benefits they’ve been given, executives and recruiters say. That confidence has only grown as record low unemployment persists.
So far this year, 30% of white-collar workers with access to paid leave have taken sick time, up from 21% in 2019, according to data from payroll and benefits software company Gusto. Employees between ages 25 and 34 are taking sick days most often. Some employers, such as Stellantis, complain such worker absences are driving up costs. The Detroit carmaker has repeatedly brought up the issue as contract talks with the United Auto Workers proceed, saying it lost 10.9% of hourly worker time in 2022 because of unplanned absenteeism.
It’s not that the Kids Today are slacking, it’s that people who are of the age where they have small children (or are pregnant), are using sick leave to stay home with their kids (in the pre-times, that was my observation anyway). Add to that, various sorts of psychological stresses (COVID, shitty employers), and people will be inclined to take sick leave.
Being not young, I would argue older workers weren’t more ‘ethical’, but were terrified of losing their jobs: in other words, they should have taken more sick days, but didn’t, to their own detriment. After years of treating employees as disposable cogs, employers have trained workers to be transactional*, and they haven’t thought through the implications of that training.
*And if there isn’t some form of profit-sharing or incentives, why should employees go the extra mile so the boss (or shareholders) can be richer?