Growing Evidence Supports Paid Sick Time Policies

President Obama at the White House Summit on Worker Voice

Editor’s Note: The following is cross-posted from Medium.com. You can view the original here

Paid sick time is a fundamental element of what a good job should mean in America. It is a fundamental element of the dignity of taking care for oneself. It is a fundamental element of being a good parent. It is a fundamental element of being a good employee and a good community member. Without access to paid sick leave, workers are forced to make choices that no one should have to make – between the families they love and the jobs they need.

Research shows us the many advantages to all of us – workers, their families, businesses and the public – when paid sick time policies are implemented. That is why this past Labor Day, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to offer workers up to seven days of paid sick time per year.

The Department of Labor has published a new issue brief outlining the research on paid sick time and a summary of findings from states and cities with existing policies that demonstrate these advantages.

Paid sick time policies are gaining traction across the country. That’s how we know that these policies work. Twenty-two local jurisdictions have implemented policies, along with three states – soon to be joined by Oregon – and the District of Columbia. And it’s no surprise that states and cities are moving forward on this issue. After all, a 2015 poll showed that nearly nine in ten likely voters support policies ensuring workers can earn sick time.

Paid sick time is good for workers. Over 40 million private sector workers still lack access to paid sick time. These workers are disproportionately low-wage workers who feel a missed paycheck most acutely. For example, a single mom with two children earning $10 per hour and working full time would fall below the federal poverty line if she had to miss a single day of pay in a month. Many workers across America are walking a tightrope trying to balance work and family, but sensible policies like paid sick time help stabilize them, their families and, in turn, our economy.

Paid sick time is good for businesses. Workers with paid sick days are more satisfied, productive, and healthy employees. There are steep costs associated with replacing and training an employee – typically about one-fifth of an employee’s salary – but benefits like paid sick time can help reduce turnover. It also can save businesses from the loss of productivity when a contagious illness is spread from worker to worker.

Paid sick time is good for the public. Although the public health benefits of food service workers being able to stay home when they’re sick is obvious, a recent survey of food workers found that nearly 90 percent went to work when they were sick, with 45 percent saying they went because they could not afford to lose pay. Protecting a business, city, or state with paid sick time can help reduce the spread of germs and leads to higher rates of regular and recommended health check-ups. When parents can take time to care for their sick children, health outcomes are also better for their kids. Workers with access to leave are also less likely to be injured on the job, especially those employed in health care support occupations, construction and production. Lastly, a universal paid sick time policy would result in substantial cost savings in the health care system – an estimated $1.1 billion annually – by reducing emergency room visits by 1.3 million a year.

The studies, surveys and research all point to paid sick time as being beneficial for workers, employers, families, public health and our overall economy. This is why Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor will continue to spread the word across the country and help support employers, states and cities that want to lead on leave.

Sharon Block is the principal deputy assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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