Paid Sick-Leave: Is It a Good Way to Control Epidemics?

  • Shaojuan Liao
  • Yifei Ma
  • Jiangzhuo Chen
  • Achla Marathe
Part of the Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering book series (LNICST, volume 126)


This research considers an economic intervention i.e. a paid sick leave policy to control an Influenza epidemic. Research has shown that “presenteeism” i.e. sick workers coming to work, costs employers more than “absenteeism” because sick workers put their coworkers at risk and are less productive.

We examined the costs and benefits of a paid sick leave policy through its effect on productivity, medical costs and attack rate. We considered two kinds of workers’ behavior: honest and rational. Honest workers take sick leave for days they are sick; but rational workers take all available sick leave. We ran agent-based epidemic simulations on large scale social contact networks with individual behavior modeling to study the coevolution of policy, behavior, and epidemics, as well as their impact on social welfare.

Our experimental results indicate that if the workers behave honestly, the society’s economic benefits increase monotonically with the number of paid sick days, however if the workers behave dishonestly but rationally, the society’s welfare is maximized when the number of paid sick days is equal to the number of mean days of sickness. This research shows that paid sick leave can be used as an effective policy instrument for controlling epidemics.


epidemics simulation influenza public health economic analysis social welfare sensitivity analysis 


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Copyright information

© ICST Institute for Computer Science, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaojuan Liao
    • 2
  • Yifei Ma
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jiangzhuo Chen
    • 1
  • Achla Marathe
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Virginia Bioinformatics InstituteVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  4. 4.Department of Agricultural and Applied EconomicsVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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