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The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: Testing for Contagious Presenteeism and Noncontagious Absenteeism Behavior

Stefan Pichler, Nicolas R. Ziebarth

NBER Working Paper No. 22530
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, , Labor Studies, Public Economics

This paper provides an analytical framework and uses data from the US and Germany to test for the existence of contagious presenteeism and negative externalities in sickness insurance schemes. The first part exploits high-frequency Google Flu data and the staggered implementation of U.S. sick leave reforms to show in a reduced-from framework that population-level influenza-like disease rates decrease after employees gain access to paid sick leave. Next, a simple theoretical framework provides evidence on the underlying behavioral mechanisms. The model theoretically decomposes overall behavioral labor supply adjustments ('moral hazard') into contagious presenteeism and noncontagious absenteeism behavior and derives testable conditions. The last part illustrates how to implement the model exploiting German sick pay reforms and administrative industry-level data on certified sick leave by diagnoses. It finds that the labor supply elasticity for contagious diseases is significantly smaller than for noncontagious diseases. Under the identifying assumptions of the model, in addition to the evidence from the U.S., this finding provides indirect evidence for the existence of contagious presenteeism.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22530

Published: Stefan Pichler & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2017. "The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: Testing for Contagious Presenteeism and Noncontagious Absenteeism Behavior," Journal of Public Economics, . citation courtesy of

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