New Data Show Slow Progress on Increasing Access to Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days

Low-Wage Workers, Women and People of Color Are Getting Left Behind

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show meager progress on working people’s access to paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. The data also reveal stark disparities based on income and occupation — particularly occupations in which women and people of color make up the majority of the workforce.

While the data released today does not break down access to paid family and medical leave or paid sick days by race or ethnicity, recent data from the American Time Use Survey shows that Latinx and Black workers are less likely than white or Asian American workers to have any workplace leave benefits.

Only 19 percent of working people have paid family leave through an employer — up two percentage points since last year. Forty percent of working people now have access to paid medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program versus 39 percent last year. If this rate of progress continues, it will take more than 90 years for all working people to be able to take paid family leave in order to care for a loved one or welcome a new child, and 120 years for all working people to have access to personal medical leave.

Access to paid sick days continues to edge up each year, coinciding with the implementation of state and local paid sick days laws. Seventy-three percent of private sector workers now have paid sick days, up from 71 percent last year. Since 2015, the share of private sector workers with paid sick days has increased by 12 percentage points. In that time, nine states and 13 jurisdictions have implemented paid sick days policies.

The data for paid leave show disparities based on income and occupation. Some of the most striking disparities include:

  • Thirty-four percent of civilian workers in the top 10 percent of wage earners have paid family leave compared to 6 percent of those in the bottom 10 percent;
  • Fourteen percent of service workers have access to paid family leave versus 29 percent of managers;
  • The lowest-paid workers saw access to paid sick days decline from 31 percent in 2018 to 30 percent in 2019, while the highest-paid workers saw an increase from 92 to 93 percent;
  • Managers and professional workers are more likely to have paid sick days (90 percent) than service workers (58 percent), despite the fact that service workers are more likely to interact with the public.

“The new data today make clear that while state and local policies are driving change, this piecemeal approach is not enough to eliminate disparities or ensure no one has to make impossible choices between health and economic security,” said National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness. We need national public policy solutions like the Healthy Families Act to create a paid sick days standard, and the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to provide paid family and medical leave for all people, no matter where they live or work. We urge Congress to take action on policies that will create a stronger, more just country, where working people have a right to health and economic security regardless of income or what type of job they hold.”

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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Alex Nseir
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