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Good Question: How Much Sick Time Do We Take?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's the time of year when the sick list can get long. The common cold, the flu and strep throat can leave businesses a bit understaffed.

So over the course of the year, how much sick time do we take?

The average American worker is given about eight to 10 days of sick leave a year, but most people only take between three and six.

Despite getting a flu shot, WCCO Good Question reporter Heather Brown still got the flu and has been so sick she had to visit the emergency room this week.

Jenn Schultz is with Versique, an HR staffing and consulting firm. Employees there actually go by the "honor system" for time off.

"We don't track it. We know they're going to be here when the work ramps up and they need to really hit the ground running," Schultz said.

But that's rare. Schultz says she's seeing more and more companies steer away from designated sick days and vacations days.

Instead, she says they're giving their employees a bucket of paid time off, or P.T.O., to use as they see fit.

"Companies have gravitated more towards, 'We're going to give them that freedom, where going to say here's your time off allotment and use it as you want. We don't care. Just be here when you're supposed to be,'" she said.

Schultz says when an employee making about $20 an hour calls in sick, their company loses about $500 through wages and lost productivity.

But studies have shown that the majority of American workers are honest about their sick days, and are actually looking out for their co-workers.

"If you're sick I really feel you should be at home," said one woman on Nicollet Mall. "Don't come in with all the crud and junk that you have (laughs)."

Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of people have admitted to using a sick day for vacation.

Schultz says that companies that use the P.T.O. system have reported that employees are actually taking less time off.

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