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Family Leave & Paid Sick Days

About Family Leave & Paid Sick Days

For American workers, a good job has many defining characteristics: a fair wage or salary, health care benefits, a safe work environment, and the ability to take time off work when needed without losing pay. IWPR studies several types of  paid time off from work:

  1. Paid sick leave, usable by employees with little or no advance notice, to recuperate from illness, seek medical care, or care for family members; and,
  2. Longer-term leave such as family and medical leave, parental leave, and disability leave, taken by fewer employees but for longer periods.

      More than forty percent of private sector workers in the United States have no access to paid sick days (PSD). Paid sick days legislation, which would require businesses to provide leave when workers or their children are ill, has been introduced each year since 2005 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. PSD is also the focus of several campaigns around the country at the local, state, and federal levels.

      In a 2009 briefing paper, IWPR reported that employees who attended work while infected with H1N1 are estimated to have caused the infection of as many as 7 million co-workers (according to data compiled by IWPR from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Public opinion tends to support PSD policies as demonstrated by a 2010 survey by IWPR. The survey of registered voters, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, found that more than two-thirds of registered voters (69 percent) endorse laws to provide paid sick days.

      Three out of four (76 percent) endorse laws to provide paid leave for family care and childbirth—81 percent of women and 71 percent of men.

      IWPR conducts research on the impacts of both paid sick leave and longer-term leave, including the costs of implementing leave systems or passing paid sick time laws, as well as the anticipated benefits for workers, employers, and the public of expanding access to leave.

      IWPR produces reports, memoranda, and testimony regarding the impacts of proposed paid leave laws or to inform policymakers, business leaders, and advocates. In 2010, IWPR staff members testified on paid sick leave before the House Labor Committee of the Illinois General Assembly, the Labor Relations Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the New York City Council. IWPR also submitted a technical memorandum to the Maine Legislature.

      Resources

      Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave in the United States | Briefing Paper

      No Time to Be Sick:Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t have Paid Sick Leave | Report

      The Need for Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees:
      Adapting to a Changing Workforce
      | Report

      Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

      To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

      Latest Reports from IWPR

      Health and Family Care Leave for Federal Workers: Using a Short-Term Disability Insurance Model to Support Worker and Family Well-Being, Ensure Competitive Employee Compensation, and Increase Productivity
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (February 2008)

      Testimony presented to the Joint Economic Committee and the House Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia

       

      Public Health and Paid Sick Days: Policy Action to Limit the Spread of Disease and Improve Health In Massachusetts
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (October 2007)

       

      Maternity Leave in the United States: Paid Parental Leave is Still Not Standard, Even Among the Best U.S. Employers
      by Vicky Lovell, PhD, Elizabeth O’Neill, and Skylar Olsen (July 2007)

      (Produced with research assistance by Claudia Williams) Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the best employers for working mothers provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave, and half (52 percent) provide six weeks or less, according to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of data provided by Working Mother Media, Inc., publisher of Working Mother magazine. Nearly half of the best companies fail to provide any paid leave for paternity or adoption. Each year Working Mother selects the 100 family-friendliest companies in the United States by reviewing employer questionnaires describing their “workforce profile, compensation, child care, flexibility, time off and leaves, family-friendly programs and company culture.” 1 While more than one-quarter of companies (28 percent) provide nine or more weeks of paid maternity leave, many of the winners’ paid parental leave policies fall far short of families’ needs. No company provides more than six weeks of paid paternity leave and only 7 of the 100 best companies provide seven weeks or more of paid adoptive leave

       

      Supporting Healthy Washington, DC Communities with a Minimum Paid Sick Days Standard Testimony on the Paid Sick and Safe Days Act of 2007, Bill 17-197
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (June 2007)

       

      An Economy That Puts Families First: Expanding the social contract to include family care
      by Heidi Hartmann, Ariane Hegewisch and Vicky Lovell (May 2007)

      A comprehensive family policy program is needed to make the U.S. economy more family friendly and to enable work- ers to combine work and family responsibilities more easily. Such a program is part of a new social contract that should spread the costs of family care beyond the immediate family and help redistribute the burden of care more equitably between men and women within the family.

       

      Women and Paid Sick Days: Crucial for Family Well-Being
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (January 2007)

      #B254, Fact Sheet, 4 pages
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      Women and Paid Sick Days: Crucial for Family Well-Being
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (January 2007)

      Balancing work with personal and family health-care concerns is a major stressor for many working women. Women continue to be overrepresented in part-time and low-wage positions, those least likely to offer employer benefits such as paid sick days. Nevertheless, working women remain our families’ primary caregivers. For too many women, being sick or having an ill family member presents an untenable choice: stay at work when you shouldn’t, or lose pay (and perhaps a job) by staying home.

       

      Valuing Good Health in San Francisco: The Costs and Benefits of a Proposed Paid Sick Days Policy
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (June 2006)

      Policy makers across the country are increasingly concerned about the adequacy of paid sick days policies. Time off with pay for workers who are sick or have other health problems could have significant benefits in terms of workers’ health outcomes, while keeping them from being fired when illness forces them to stay home from work. It would also allow them to take care of their families when needed and get preventive health care and reduce the spread of disease at work. And it offers substantial savings to employers by reducing turnover and minimizing absenteeism.

       

      Paid Sick Days Improve Public Health by Reducing the Spread of Disease
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (January 2006)

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      Paid Sick Days Improve Public Health by Reducing the Spread of Disease
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (January 2006)

      Paid sick days can reduce the spread of disease at work and in child-care settings, creating signifi cant public health benefi ts and a more productive workforce.1 That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that workers with the fl u stay home.2 Yet many workers cannot do so without losing income or their job.

       

      Valuing Good Health in Massachusetts: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Paid Sick Days Act
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (April 2005)

      The Paid Sick Days Act (PSDA) would ensure that all Massachusetts workers have a minimum of seven days of paid time off annually to take care of their own health needs and those of members of their families. This report presents an estimate of the cost of that Act and of certain cost savings it would provide to employers, to workers and their families, and to the broader community (Table 1). Several other likely benefits for which we currently lack estimation data are also discussed. Of course, the overall purpose of the Act is to reduce economic hardship of workers when they, or their family members, have medical care needs, and we are unable to calculate the value of that benefit.

       

      Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2005)

      #B248, 21 pages
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      Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2005)

      The Healthy Families Act (HFA) would ensure that all eligible workers have a minimum of seven days of paid time off annually to take care of their own health needs and those of members of their families. This report presents an estimate of the cost of that Act and of certain cost savings it would provide to employers, to workers and their families, and to the broader community (Table 1). Several other likely benefits for which we currently lack estimation data are also discussed. Of course, the overall purpose of the Act is to reduce economic hardship of workers when they, or their family members, have medical care needs, and we are unable to calculate the value of that benefit.

       
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      Work Supports, Job Retention, and Job Mobility Among Low-Income Mothers
      by Sunhwa Lee (November 2004)

      #B247P, 67 pages
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      A New Full-Time Norm: Promoting Work-Life Integration Through Work-Time Adjustment*
      by Cynthia Negrey (July 2004)

      (Cynthia Negrey is an Associate Professor Sociology Department, University of Louisville) This paper is an argument for a new, shorter, full-time work norm in the United States. It examines the context of “time famine” as a product of women’s increased labor force participation and an increase in household total employment hours, a caregiving gap, bifurcation of aggregate work hours, and a gap between workers’ actual and ideal work hours. Inadequacies of current alternative work-time arrangements and the Family and Medical Leave Act are addressed and some international comparisons are discussed. Following Appelbaum et al. (2002), the author argues for a “shared work/valued care” model of work-time allocation.

       
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      Expanded Sick Leave Would Yield Substantial Benefits to Business, Employers, and Families
      by Vicky Lovell, Barbara Gault and Heidi Hartmann (June 2004)

      #B243, 3 pages
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      No Time To Be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t have Paid Sick Leave
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (June 2004)

      Expansion of paid sick leave and integration of family caregiving activities into authorized uses of paid sick leave are crucial work and health supports for workers, their families, employers, and our communities at large.

      #B242, 27 pages
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      The Fiscal Viability of New Jersey Family Leave Insurance
      by Michelle Naples and Meryl Frank (December 2001)

      The private needs of the family are now at the forefront of the national political agenda as a result of changes in the workforce and in family demographics. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is the cornerstone of the family policy movement. This act allows an unpaid leave of absence for employed family members who need to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill relative. Its benefits to working families are well documented (US DOL 1996; Cantor et al. 2000).

       

      Family Leave for Low-Income Working Women: Providing Paid Leave through Temporary Disability Insurance, The New Jersey Case
      by Michele I. Naples (October 2001)

      The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provided for unpaid time off from work to care for sick relatives or a newborn or adopted child, guaranteeing leave-takers’ jobs when they returned to work. Low-wage workers and single parents, however, cannot fully benefit from the FMLA because it offers no replacement income. In families that depend on women’s earnings to maintain living standards, unpaid time off from work threatens family finances that are already strained by the costs of bearing and providing for a new child, or the costs of health care for a sick family member. To ensure that those most in need of the protections of the FMLA can take advantage of the law, New Jersey is one among several states considering legislation to provide Family-Leave Insurance (FLI): paid leave to care for newborn babies and adopted children (BAA), and paid family-disability leave (FDL) to care for an ill child, spouse, or elderly parent. This Research-in-Brief summarizes a research project conducted by Michele I. Naples and Meryl Frank that examined proposals in New Jersey for paid family and medical leave programs. It discusses the policy context in which these programs are being considered and details the technical considerations behind estimating the cost of providing family leave insurance.

       

      The Widening Gap: A New Book on the Struggle to Balance Work and Caregiving
      by Hedieh Rahmanou (September 2001)

      This Research-in-Brief is based on selected findings from a new book by Jody Heymann, Director of Policy at the Harvard Center for Society and Health. Published by Basic Books in 2000, The Widening Gap: Why America’s Working Families are in Jeopardy and What Can Be Done About It reveals the failure of our nation’s employer-based support system to help families meet their caregiving responsibilities. Copyright permission was granted by Perseus Books LLC.

       
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