Lack of paid sick time means that an illness can potentially cost a family thousands of dollars in income and jeopardize their ability to afford food, rent, health insurance, and many of the other basic goods that are essential to well-being. Just three and a half days of missed work because of illness is equivalent to an entire month’s groceries for the average family.
While American workers are more productive than ever before, they are less secure in their ability to provide for their families. Workers without paid sick days—nearly 40% of the private-sector workforce—are among the least economically secure, and an illness forces them to take time away from work without pay and puts them at risk of losing their job.
This paper looks at economic security for working families, and shows how a national paid sick days policy — providing a few federally protected paid days off each year that workers can use to recover from illness, care for sick family members, or seek medical care — would promote workers’ financial stability and the economic security of their families.
This paper explores in detail the following major findings:
- Nearly 40 million private-sector workers do not have paid sick time.
- Employees without paid sick time are likely to go to work sick, where they will have reduced productivity, at a significant cost both to their employer and to their possibility for professional advancement.
- Without paid sick leave, parents are forced to send sick children to school, which could potentially impact their long-term health and educational performance.
- A two-child family with two workers earning the average wage for workers without paid sick time would lose the family’s entire health care budget after just three days of missed work.
- A two-child family with a single working parent earning the average wage for workers without paid sick time ($10/hour) cannot miss more than three days of work in a month without falling below the federal poverty line.
- Taking unpaid sick time leaves workers vulnerable to losing their jobs in an economy with a stubbornly high long-term unemployment rate.