Paid Time Off

Get the Facts

What are Cancer Screenings?

Every year in NYS, more than 25,000 people are diagnosed with breast, cervical, or colon cancer.  These cancers can be found early or prevented through screening tests.  Screenings can find cancers early when they may be easier to treat, or some cancers, before they start.  Examples of cancer screenings are: mammograms, Pap smears, fecal tests, and colonoscopies.   Finding cancer early can save lives, as treatment is most likely to be successful. Individuals may not get their recommended cancer screening for reasons such as:

  • Do not have enough sick time;
  • Appointments are only available during traditional office hours and they are not able to leave work; and/or
  • Not have time to miss work/employment, afraid to use sick time for preventative care.

What is a Paid Time Off Benefit for Cancer Screenings?

Similar to sick, vacation, or personal leave, paid time off (PTO) for cancer screenings can help employees be up to date with their recommended screenings for cancers such as breast, cervical, and colorectal.

Employers can adopt their own organizational policy allowing employees to take paid time off for cancer screenings.  In NYS, public employees are already provided four hours of PTO for any cancer screenings.

A paid time off benefit for cancer screening is important because it alleviates a significant barrier to cancer screenings.  Employees do not need to choose between a potentially life-saving screening and a paycheck. In fact, employees are more likely to get screened for cancer than employees without paid time off.[1], [2] In addition, employees getting cancer screenings can reduce health care costs related to cancer. In fact, cancer is one of the top five most costly diseases in the United States: it leads to substantial work loss, number of work days lost, and absenteeism costs.[3] Cancer is estimated to cost a business more than $1,600 in lost productivity per year for each employee diagnosed.[4]

Did You Know…?

  • Nearly 90% of NY adults support a policy that would require employers to offer employees paid leave for cancer screenings.[5]
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in New York State.[6]
  • 1 in 5 cancer deaths in NYS are caused by breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers.[7]
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in NYS.[8]
  • Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women.[9]
  • Nationwide, screening for colon cancer over the last three decades has helped to lower deaths from this disease in both men and women.[10]
[1] Peipins, L., Soman, A., Berkowitz, A., & White, M.C. (2012).  The lack of paid sick leave as a barrier to cancer screening and medical care-seeking: results from the National Health Interview Survey.  BMC Public Health, 12:520.  Retrieved from
[2] Cook, W.K.  (2011).  Paid sick days and health care use: An analysis of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey Data.  American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 54(10): 771-779.  doi:10.1002/ajim.20988
[3] Tangka, F.K., Trogdon, J.G., Nwaise, I., Ekwueme, D.U., Guy, Jr., G.P., & Orenstein, D. (2013).  State-level estimates of cancer-related absenteeism costs.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 55(9):1015-1020. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182a2a467
[4] Mitchell, R. & Bates, P. (2011). Measuring health-related productivity loss.  Population Health Management, 14(2) 93-98. doi: 10.1089/pop.2010.0014
[5] New York State Department of Health, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention Public Opinion Poll, January 2019
[6] New York State Cancer Registry, 2012-2016
[7] New York State Cancer Registry. (2018). Cancer Incidence and Mortality for New York State, 2012-2016. Retrieved from
[8] New York State Cancer Registry, 2012-2016
[9] New York State Cancer Registry, 2012-2016
[10] American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts and Figures 2017-2019. Retrieved from Accessed October 2020.

Provide a Paid Time Off Benefit for Cancer Screenings

Employers can play an important role in increasing life-saving cancer screenings for employees.  Adopting a policy allowing employees to take time off from work to get a cancer screening can reduce health care costs related to cancer and improve work force health.  The purpose of a policy is to help prevent or detect certain cancers at an early stage, by allowing employees to obtain preventive medical services such as cancer screenings without using accrued leave or sick time.

Spread the Word

Employers can play an important role in increasing life-saving cancer screenings for employees by offering a cancer screening paid time off benefit. If your business or organization would like to learn more about adopting a paid time off for cancer screening policy, contact a local Cancer Prevention in Action resource in your county.

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