Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Gender Gap: Paid Sick Days

Earlier this week, a new survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and commissioned by the Public Welfare Foundation was released. The survey demonstrates that the lack of access to paid sick days not only has significant negative consequences for public health, health care costs, and families’ financial security, but also that women disproportionately lack it as a benefit.

While 71 percent of men surveyed had paid sick days, only 57 percent of women reported having the same benefit. In recent months we have seen that, for the first time, women make up half of the workforce. Now, however, we see that just as there is a gender gap in wages, there appears to be one in sick time as well. The fields where a majority of the workers are women are unfortunately less likely to offer such benefits as paid sick days, while women are still more likely to be the primary care giver for a child or relative. Below are some statistics from the National Partnership for Women and Families that highlight this disparity:

  • Low-wage workers—the majority of whom are women—are less likely to have paid sick days. Two-thirds of low-income workers making $10.63 per hour or less don’t have access to paid sick time.
  • The industries that are often women-dominated are among the least likely to offer paid sick days. For example, nearly three-quarters of child care workers (72 percent) and food service workers (73 percent) lack access to paid sick time.
  • One in three working women report that they provide care for an elderly relative, for persons with disabilities or for special needs children.
  • Four in five mothers (80 percent) are primarily responsible for selecting their children’s doctors and accompanying children to appointments.
  • Half of working mothers miss work when their child gets sick. And of these mothers, half do not get paid when they take this time off. Among low-income working mothers, two in three report losing pay.

All workers, but especially working women, need a basic workplace standard of paid sick days to ensure that no one has to choose between supporting their families financially and caring for a sick child, an ailing family member or themselves.

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