A survey of patients with stage III colorectal cancer revealed that paid sick leave is associated with a greater likelihood of job retention and reduced personal financial burden. Nearly half of surveyed patients did not retain their jobs, reportedly due to their cancer diagnosis and treatment. The study findings were published in JAMA (doi:10.1001/jama.2015.12383).

Workers who develop colorectal cancer (CRC) or other serious illnesses may incur economic hardship regardless of their insurance coverage status. Paid sick leave could reduce the need to take unpaid time off during treatment. However, its provision is not mandated under the Affordable Care Act or the Family Medical Leave Act, nor is it part of health insurance coverage.

Arden M. Morris, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the association between access to paid sick leave and job retention and personal financial burden among patients with CRC. Their study was conducted via mailed surveys with telephone follow-up to adults with stage III CRC reported to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registries of Georgia and metropolitan Detroit between August 2011 and March 2013. Patients were contacted 4 months postoperatively and could respond up to 12 months postoperatively; only those employed at diagnosis were included in the data analysis.

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Among 567 employed respondents (68% response rate), 56% had access to paid sick leave. Fifty-five percent retained their jobs. Others were newly disabled (26%), retired (7%), or unemployed (8%) or had found new jobs (4%).

Those who retained their jobs were significantly more likely to be men, white, married, without other illness, and were more highly educated and were more likely to have a higher annual income, private health insurance, and access to paid sick leave. Fifty-nine percent of respondents with paid sick leave retained their jobs vs. 33% without paid sick leave.