A new survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and commissioned by the Public Welfare Foundation demonstrates that lack of access to paid sick days has significant negative consequences for public health, health care costs, and families’ financial security. The survey also shows that overwhelming majorities support paid sick days laws as a matter of basic labor policy.
The survey results could not be clearer: It is time for policymakers to guarantee access to paid sick days to the over 40 million U.S. workers who currently lack them. Workers should not have to risk their job to care for their families and shouldn’t have to risk their own-well-being—and the public’s health—to do their job.
Key Findings on Health and Economic Security
Lack of Access to Paid Sick Days Impacts Public Health
- More than half of all workers without paid sick days (55%) have gone to work sick. And workers without paid sick days are nearly twice as likely as those with paid sick days to say they have sent their child to school or daycare sick. As the 2009 H1N1 pandemic most recently showed, going to work or school while sick increases the likelihood of spreading infection and creates significant public health risks.
- Workers without access to paid sick days are twice as likely as those with access to say they have gone to the emergency room to get care for themselves because they were unable to take time off of work to get medical care. Workers without paid sick days are two-and-a-half times as likely to say they have taken a child or other family member to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off of work. Unnecessary ER visits mean additional burdens on our health care system and cost billions of dollars per year.
- Workers face job loss and workplace discipline for taking sick time. Nearly one quarter of workers (23%) say they have lost a job or were told they would lose a job for taking time off to deal with a personal or family illness, including nearly one-sixth (16%) who say they have actually lost a job. Nearly one-sixth (16%) also say they or a family member were fired, suspended, written up or otherwise penalized or were told they would face such penalties for illness-related absences.
Public Support for a Paid Sick Days Law Is Broad and Runs Deep
Across demographic and political backgrounds, the public overwhelmingly supports a law that would guarantee paid sick days to all workers. Fully three-quarters (75%) favor a law providing a “minimum number” of paid sick days for all workers. Eighty-six percent favor a specific proposal that requires 7 paid sick days annually for full-time employees, including 69% who strongly favor providing workers with 7 paid sick days.
- Eighty-five percent of seniors and 82% of retirees—a group that is particularly likely to need care—favor a law providing a minimum number of paid sick days.
- Women (88%), African-Americans (90%), and unmarried parents (85%)—precisely those with lower access rates and more caregiving responsibilities—are particularly strong supporters.
- Three-quarters of respondents agree that paid sick days is a basic worker’s right, just like being paid a decent wage. Seven in ten (69%) say paid sick days are a very important standard to protect workers’ rights—the same share as believe minimum wage and overtime laws are very important.
For more information about the work the National Partnership for Women and Families on paid sick days please visit www.paidsickdays.org.