Enormous Progress, Shocking Disparities on Paid Sick Days; New Data Underscore Need for Congress to Pass Healthy Families Act and Reject False Alternatives

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“It is welcome, wonderful news that a record number of people in this country now have access to paid sick days, according to data released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventy-one percent of private sector workers now have this essential support — up from 68 percent in 2017. But the disparities in access to paid sick days are shocking and shameful. While 92 percent of our country’s highest-wage workers have access to paid sick days, just 31 percent of the lowest-wage workers, many of whom risk financial instability if they miss just a few days of work to recover from illness, can do so.

The gains in access to paid sick time mean millions fewer people facing impossible choices between their jobs and their health or the health of a child every time illness strikes. This historic progress is good for workers, their families and communities, good for the public health, and good for businesses and local economies. It has been driven by overwhelming public support for paid sick days laws, and state and local lawmakers enlightened enough to ignore the baseless scare tactics organized business interests use to try to block progress. We commend, too, the many businesses that are adopting paid sick days for their workers and the unions and other groups that are fighting for them.

Ten states and dozens of jurisdictions have adopted paid sick days standards, which is a powerful tribute to the extraordinary work that skilled, determined advocates have done all across the country. Eighty-six percent of private sector workers in the Pacific region can now earn paid sick days — a dramatic increase that demonstrates the powerful impact of the laws adopted in California, Oregon and Washington state.

But the data released today also show — with stunning clarity — the unacceptable limitations that come with winning paid sick days one city, state or business at a time. Even the significant progress reported today is leaving millions behind. More than 34.2 million private sector workers in this country still cannot earn a single paid sick day to recover from stomach flu, seek care for an eye infection or have an injury treated — and substantial disparities persist by job type, industry and wage level. Least likely to be able to earn paid sick days are those who need them most. Barely half of service workers (52 percent) — whose jobs require them to interact often with the public — have access to paid sick days right now.

That’s why people across the country so urgently need Congress to pass the Heathly Families Act, a real solution that would establish a national paid sick days standard. By expanding access to paid sick days to all working people, no matter where they live, their employer or the nature of their job, the Healthy Families Act would help improve the health of workers and communities, the economic security of families and the bottom lines of businesses. America’s workers and families cannot afford to wait.

Today’s data release comes just before a U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on the so-called "Workflex in the 21st Century Act," which would give employers the option to exempt themselves from state and local paid sick days laws. This badly misnamed fake flexibility proposal would severely undermine the nation’s 44 paid sick days laws, the certainty they provide to workers and their families and the benefits they have for the public’s health. The progress we see today — where more workers have access to paid sick days than ever before, largely because of statutory protections — provides further evidence that this corporate-lobby-backed plan would be the wrong move.”

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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