“The data on access to paid sick time released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly show that the growing number of paid sick days policies in this country is having a meaningful, positive impact. The coast-to-coast efforts of dedicated workers, advocates, business leaders and lawmakers who are pushing for these policies are making a significant difference. Paid sick days laws are now or will soon be in place in 34 jurisdictions nationwide, and private employers are increasingly putting paid sick days policies in place because they know doing so will strengthen their bottom lines. These data illustrate the results of this progress.
Since these federal data were last released one year ago, millions of workers have gained access to paid sick time. Sixty-four percent of private sector workers in the country can now earn paid sick days, compared to 61 percent in 2015. Since the last time these data were collected, new paid sick days laws have taken effect in California, Massachusetts, Oregon and the cities of Emeryville, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Bloomfield, Elizabeth, New Brunswick and Trenton, N.J. Access in the Pacific region increased by 12 percentage points to 73 percent and access in the Northeast region increased by 1 percentage point to 67 percent, very likely due to these advances. Access also increased among union members, from 73 percent in 2015 to 76 percent today.
It is tremendously good news that the workers who have gained new paid sick time protections in the past year will no longer have to choose between their jobs and their health or the health of their families, workplaces or communities when they get the flu or a child has strep throat. This progress is improving our public health, strengthening businesses and communities, and making our country stronger.
But still, 36 percent of private sector workers – more than 41 million workers – cannot earn a single paid sick day. This is, simply, unacceptable. And it is outrageous that 73 percent of workers in the lowest-wage decile (those paid $9.37 per hour or less) cannot earn paid sick days, compared to just 13 percent of those in the highest-wage decile (those paid $44.33 per hour or more), despite low-wage workers often being most in need of financial stability when illness strikes. Similar gaps in access exist among part-time and full-time workers (70 percent without access compared to 24 percent without access) and for people who work in the service industry compared to in management (58 percent without access compared to 11 percent without access).
The substantial disparities in access to paid sick days in this country are a painful reminder that we will remain a nation of haves and have nots on this issue unless we establish a national standard. Access to paid sick time should not depend on where you live or who you work for, especially when there is a growing body of evidence that shows the widespread benefits of paid sick days. It is past time for federal lawmakers to pass the Healthy Families Act, which is currently before Congress. It is a reasonable proposal that would establish the national paid sick days standard the country has long needed. These new data make clear that it should be a national priority.”
The National Partnership convenes a broad and diverse coalition that supports the Healthy Families Act. More information can be found at PaidSickDays.org.
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.