"This new data is a jarring reminder that workplace policies in this country are grossly inadequate, and it should be a compelling call to action for lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels," said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "With unemployment high, jobs scarce and more working families relying on one income instead of two, too many workers are forced to sacrifice their health or their financial security when illness strikes or a family emergency occurs. This year, we are asking lawmakers at all levels to make it a priority to pass laws that give all workers the chance to earn paid sick days."
Occupational breakdowns in the new research reinforce the connection between the failure to allow workers to earn paid sick days and public health problems. According to IWPR, the occupations most likely to have regular contact with the public — food service and preparation, and personal care and service — are among those least likely to provide paid sick days because of low eligibility rates and high numbers of low-tenure employees. "The fact that less than one-quarter of food service workers have access to paid sick days raises serious public health concerns," said Robert Drago, research director for IWPR.
"There is no question that working families and the public health suffer when workers have to choose between risking their jobs or going to work sick because they can’t earn paid sick days," explained National Partnership Vice President Portia Wu. "That’s why IWPR’s work to quantify the problem is so important. The good news is that, as the new year begins, cities and states are ready to lead the effort to protect working families and our communities by passing paid sick days legislation."
Wu noted that, in Connecticut, newly-elected Governor Dan Malloy has been a vocal supporter of paid sick days. His support means that Connecticut may be poised to become the first state to ensure workers can earn paid sick days. In Massachusetts, a broad coalition is building momentum around a statewide paid sick days bill and Governor Deval Patrick has already pledged his support.
Major cities are also working to ensure workers have the right to earn paid sick days. Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C, have already passed paid sick days laws. New York City’s paid sick days bill has strong support, although it has run into political roadblocks. And in Philadelphia, City Council members have expressed support for a bill that would guarantee earned paid sick days for eligible workers.
At the federal level, Congress is expected to consider the Healthy Families Act again this year. It would require employers with 15 or more employees to let workers earn up to seven paid sick days per year, to be used to address an employee’s short-term medical needs, such as the flu, or those of his or her family. It includes pro-rated leave for part-time employees, and sick days can be used for an employee’s medical appointments, preventative or diagnostic treatment; and to care for a family member with comparable needs. It also includes a ‘paid safe days’ provision to allow workers to use paid sick time to address domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.