New Data, Same Disappointing Paid Sick Days Inequities

by | Mar 6, 2014 | Paid Sick Days

We’ve long been aware of the disparities in access to paid sick days in this country. This week, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new analysis that provides a clear and up-to-date picture of just how stark the differences are — across ethnicity, occupation, wages and hours worked. The findings confirm that a national paid sick days standard is badly needed.

Some of the disparities are depressingly familiar. As we’ve written before, Latino workers have significantly lower rates of access to paid sick days than the workforce as a whole, and IWPR’s new analysis finds that little has changed: Only 47 percent of Latinos have paid sick days, compared to 61 percent of the total workforce.

Similarly, we’ve known that disparities in workers’ access to paid sick days vary by occupation, with significant implications for public health. IWPR’s analysis shows that access remains alarmingly low in occupations that require frequent contact with the public: Only 24 percent of food preparation and service workers, 31 percent of personal care and service workers (such as child care workers), and 48 percent of workers in sales and related occupations have paid sick days.

IWPR’s analysis also affirms fundamental inequities in paid sick days access by income, demonstrating that the workers who are least likely to have paid sick days are also those who can least afford to take an unpaid day off when they catch a cold or a child gets sick. According to IWPR, 83 percent of workers who are paid $65,000 or more annually have paid sick days, but just 28 percent of workers who are paid less than $20,000 per year can earn them.

The analysis also reveals new details about the gap in access between part-time and full-time workers. Seventy percent of full-time workers (those who work 35 or more hours per week) earn paid sick days, compared to less than 11 percent of those who work fewer than 20 hours per week. This means that people who have to piece together multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet are highly unlikely to earn paid sick days at any of their jobs — adding unnecessary pressure and financial strain.

The disparities highlighted by IWPR this week make even clearer the need for public policy standards that guarantee all workers can earn the time they need to care for their health and their families without sacrificing their jobs or economic security. States and cities continue to make progress, but a federal standard is what America’s working families truly need.