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What Happens If You Really "Break A Leg!?"

According to the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, "Break a leg!" is something you say to wish someone good luck, especially before they perform in the theatre. Although there are many theories, the derivation of this term is unclear. The expression reflects a theatrical superstition that wishing a person "good luck" is actually considered bad luck. But is it really bad luck if you "break a leg?" Recently, I broke a bone in my right foot while playing basketball (not work related) and was unable to walk or drive a car for about seven weeks. Even though I "broke a foot," and was definitely upset about the pain and physical limitations, I considered myself lucky that I had the support of family members, lived in a place (a suburb of New York City) that enabled me to use car services and/or mass transportation to get around, and had a job that permitted me to continue working on an extremely flexible schedule—both in terms of when and where the work could be performed. But what happens to the majority of people throughout the world when they "break a leg" or foot or experience any other injury outside of the job that makes it impossible for them to continue working for a period of weeks or months? Will their medical bills be paid for them? If so, who will "foot" the bill? Will they have a right to take a medical leave from their job while they recuperate? If so, will they be paid during their medical leave? Will their employment be protected so that they can return to their position when they are physically able. And will they be required to present their employer with a medical certification or other clearance before they will be permitted to return to work? As the Chart below indicates, while workers' experiences certainly differ from country to country, the differences may not be as dramatic as one might think.

  Medical bills
Medical leave
Job protection
Medical certification to return to work
Private matter and 55% of people have medical insurance
10 days paid leave per year which accrues year to year; otherwise unpaid unless private salary protection insurance
Yes, for 3 months after paid leave is exhausted
Medical clearance usually required
Most are paid by the public health care system
Most companies have standard insurance plan which pays either 100% or 66.67%. If no insurance, can apply for up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits through government plan
Yes Employer can require medical certification
China (Shanghai)
Paid by employer health insurance required by law
Paid at minimum 42% to maximum 70% of salary based on years of service
Yes, for minimum 3 months and maximum 24 months based on years
Employer can ask for medical records
Yes, either through the General Authority for Health Insurance or Employer insurance
Paid 75% salary for first 90 days then 85% for up to 180 days (but not less than minimum wage)
Yes, until sick and annual leave periods are exhausted
Employer can require medical certification
Paid by social security and Employer health insurance
Paid by social security and potentially with an obligation for the employer to maintain the salary
Yes May be required to pass medical exam
Paid 100% by statutory social security system
First 6 weeks paid at 100% salary,then up to an additional 52 weeks at 66.67% salary
Paid 100% either by employer insurance or by health public assistance system
Salary paid in full or partially (depending on National Collective Bargaining Agreement (NCBA)) by employer and then reimbursed by social security usually for up to 6 months (depending on NCBA)
Yes, for at least 6 months depending on NCBA
Medical clearance required if more than 60 days
Paid by social security institute
Social security institute determines duration of leave and pays 100% salary
Paid by statutory sickness social insurance
Paid at 80% salary
Yes Medical clearance required if more than 30 days
South Africa
If the employee has medical aid insurance, the insurance company will pay
Yes, up to 6 weeks per 36 month cycle
Generally, No. However, certain job categories may require
United Kingdom
Mainly paid by public healthcare system, or, if private healthcare, by the individual or private medical insurance company 
Up to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay available at prescribed rate. Employers often have enhanced policies for certain period of sickness absence
Yes Employer can require medical certification
United States
Most employees have group medical insurance plans
Unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks most employees have short term disability insurance to pay percentage of salary
Yes, for 12 weeks for most positions
Employer can require medical certification

In this month's edition, we feature articles from eight different countries Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, UK and US. Please let us know what you think of the articles and if you have suggestions for how we can improve our content. As always, we thank you for you readership and look forward to your comments and suggestions.

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