New Bureau of Labor Statistics Data Confirm Paid Sick Days Progress in Some Areas, Underscore the Need for a National Standard

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

“The data on access to paid sick time released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today are an irrefutable sign that too many workers and families in this country continue to struggle without paid sick days. The economy has improved and the workforce has grown, and yet 39 percent of private sector workers in the United States – or more than 43 million people – still do not have paid sick days they can use to recover from common illnesses or seek medical care. Workers and families, businesses, the public’s health and our economy suffer as a result. And it is clear that Congress needs to act.

The good news is that these data confirm that the country’s paid sick days movement is having an impact. Access to paid sick days has increased slightly in the Northeast. Since the data were last collected in March 2014, new laws guaranteeing more than one million additional people the right to earn paid sick days have taken effect in New York City and several New Jersey cities. These laws, and those that are or will soon be in place in 24 jurisdictions nationwide, are the direct result of diverse coalitions of workers, advocates, businesses and lawmakers that have been pushing for paid sick days standards for years. According to the data, access to paid sick days among union members has also increased.

Despite these victories and progress, the data released today make clear that millions of workers still do not have paid sick days. And workers who are paid low wages are the least likely to have access, even though they are often most in need of the economic stability paid sick days support. As the data show, 78 percent of workers in the lowest wage decile (those paid $9.00 per hour or less) cannot earn paid sick days. For many of them, one case of the flu can mean the loss of a month’s worth of groceries or even a job. This has real consequences for the health and well-being of families, communities and our country.

Ensuring people can stay home from work when they have contagious illnesses without sacrificing a job or precious income makes good business, health and economic sense. It is – and should be – common sense for employers and lawmakers. Yet the data show that employers and elected officials are not acting quickly enough. It is past time for Congress to prioritize the Healthy Families Act, which would establish a national paid sick days standard. It is a reasonable proposal that has been tested in states and cities across the country. It has long deserved the full attention and support of all members of Congress.”

The National Partnership convenes a broad and diverse coalition that supports the Healthy Families Act. More information can be found at PaidSickDays.org.

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 women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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