As summer officially kicks off and state legislative sessions come to a close, there’s much to celebrate in the effort to increase access to paid sick days. Five new laws that will guarantee nearly two million more workers the right to earn paid sick time took effect on July 1 – a day that also marks the anniversaries of four similar laws taking effect across the country. These advances follow months of continued momentum at the state and local levels as lawmakers introduced and moved bills forward throughout the most recent sessions. They also signal that progress for working people – and toward a national paid sick days law – is possible, despite the significant work ahead.
On July 1, new paid sick days laws took effect in Arizona, Chicago and Cook County, Ill., and St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., increasing the number of paid sick days laws currently in effect from 32 to 37. These laws are estimated to cover nearly two million additional people who previously could not earn a single paid sick day. Notably, they also took effect in the Midwest and Southwest – two regions that previously did not have any paid sick days laws.
In addition to these new measures, two states and two cities celebrated July 1 anniversaries of their paid sick days laws taking effect. Statewide laws in California and Massachusetts took effect in 2015, providing 7.8 million workers with the newly gained right to earn sick time. A law in the California city of Emeryville also took effect that year, and Los Angeles followed suit on the same day a year later in 2016. Los Angeles’ law was expanded this year to cover workers whose employers have 25 or fewer employees. The New Jersey cities of Plainfield and Trenton, along with San Diego, Calif., also celebrate the anniversaries of their laws taking effect this month.
Data from these places and the dozens of other jurisdictions with paid sick days laws demonstrate the benefits paid sick days have for employers, the economy, our health care system and, of course, working people. By having access to paid sick days, working people are able to take the time needed to care for themselves when they are ill, seriously reducing presenteeism (working while sick) and contagion. Businesses, in turn, benefit from higher productivity, reduced turnover and improved morale. And because paid sick days make it possible for workers to take time to seek health care, they also reduce the demand on emergency room visits and health care costs.
Yet, despite the clear benefits and tremendous progress at the state and local levels, more than 41 million private sector workers still struggle without paid sick days. Low-wage workers are among the least likely to have access – 73 percent of the lowest-paid workers do not have paid sick days, compared to 13 percent of the highest-paid workers – even though they would benefit the most from the financial stability paid sick days provide. More than half of Latino workers, who disproportionately work in lower paying jobs, and 38 percent of Black workers are unable to earn a single paid sick day. For these workers and all working people, continued progress is critical.
But advancing paid sick days is no longer enough. Workers, advocates, businesses and lawmakers must also protect victories like the laws that took effect on July 1. That is why paid sick days advocates across the country are making our voices heard at 3 p.m. ET on Twitter today, using #PaidSickDays, to celebrate how far we have come and to demonstrate our resolve to stand strong against efforts to undermine hard-fought gains. We hope you will join us. Together, we will continue to advance and protect paid sick days laws to make life and work better for all.