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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.


      Paid Sick Days Access Varies by Race/Ethnicity, and Job Characteristics | Fact Sheet

      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

      Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency Department Visits
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Claudia Williams, and Youngmin Yi (November 2011)

      Many states and localities, as well as the U.S. Congress, have considered legislation or ballot measures requiring that employers provide paid sick days to their workers. Such laws have been approved in the state of Connecticut, the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, and the District of Columbia. There has been much debate about the merits of such laws—which could affect the lives of the two-fifths of private sector employees without access to paid sick days—particularly regarding the costs and benefits for affected employees and businesses, as well as health effects for employees. This report focuses on the potential impact of paid sick days on the health of employees and their families and presents the following findings.

      #B301, Report, 41 pages

      Denver Paid Sick Days Would Promote Children’s School Success
      by Sarah Towne, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (October 2011)

      Paid sick days for working parents can enhance children’s school success. Parents face a difficult choice if their children get sick when they lack paid sick days: staying home with the child and missing pay (and possibly facing discipline at work); sending the child to school sick, which compromises their school performance and spreads illness to others; leaving the child at home alone, putting the child at risk; leaving the child with an older sibling who in turn must stay home from school; or trusting the child to a temporary caregiver. Each of these scenarios has potential costs for schools or for child well-being. The negative effects of inadequate sick days coverage disproportionately affect people of color and low-income adults in Denver, because they are less likely than other Denver residents to be able to earn paid sick days. This paper by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) addresses how children's school success can be improved when working parents have access to paid sick days by reviewing published research, Denver Public Schools data, and information provided in interviews and surveys of Denver Public Schools personnel.1

      #B300, Briefing Paper, 12 pages

      Valuing Good Health in Denver: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. and Claudia Williams (October 2011)

      Voters in Denver will consider a referendum on the 2011 ballot regarding the issue of requiring employers to provide paid sick days. Using the parameters of the proposed law and publicly available data, this paper estimates the anticipated costs and some of the anticipated benefits of the law for employers providing new leave, as well as some of the benefits for employees. Employees of businesses with ten or more employees are estimated to use an average of 2.5 days annually out of a maximum of 9 that may be accrued, while employees at smaller businesses are estimated to use an average of 2.1 days annually out of a maximum of 5 accrued. The anticipated cost of the law for employers due to lost productivity and increased wages is equivalent to a 20 cent-per-hour increase in wages for employees receiving new leave. The anticipated savings for employers, notably a reduction in costly employee turnover, are expected to have a wage equivalent of a savings of 22 cents per hour. Annually, businesses in Denver are expected to expend $22.8 million in providing new paid sick days for employees. Providing new paid sick days is expected to yield benefits of $24.2 million annually, for a net savings for Denver employers of $1.4 million annually.

      #B298, Briefing Paper, 25 pages

      Paid Sick Days in Denver Would Improve Health Outcomes, Reduce Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities, And Help Control Health Care Costs
      by Claudia Williams and Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (October 2011)

      In Denver, 41 percent of the private-sector workforce, or 107,407 workers, lack access to paid sick days. In the present research, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimates the improvements in access to health care and health outcomes that Denver workers without paid sick days and their families would experience if they were to gain access to paid sick days.


      San Francisco Employment Growth Remains Stronger with Paid Sick Days Law Than Surrounding Counties
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Sarah Towne (September 2011)


      Paid Sick Days and Employer Penalties for Absence
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams (July 2011)


      Paid Sick Days in Connecticut Would Improve Health Outcomes, Help Control Health Care Costs
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams (May 2011)


      Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave in the United States
      by Annamaria Sundbye and Ariane Hegewisch (May 2011)


      Access to Paid Sick Days in the States, 2010
      by Claudia Williams, Robert Drago, Ph.D., Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (March 2011)


      Paid Sick Day Access Rates by Gender and Race/Ethnicity, 2010
      by IWPR (March 2011)


      San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees
      by Robert Drago, Ph.D. and Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (February 2011)

      This study examines the effects of San Francisco’s recent paid sick days legislation on employees and employers.

      #A138, report, 44 pages

      44 Million U.S. Workers Lacked Paid Sick Days in 2010: 77 Percent of Food Service Workers Lacked Access
      by Claudia Williams, Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (January 2011)


      The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by Robert Drago, Ph.D. (July 2010)


      Valuing Good Health in Connecticut: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by (April 2010)

      Policymakers across the country are increasingly interested in ensuring that workers have paid sick days. In addition to concerns about workers' ability to respond to their own health needs, there is growing recognition that, which so many dual-earner and single-parent families, family members' health needs can be address only by workers taking time from their scheduled hours on the job. Paid sick days policies allow workers with contagious illnesses to avoid unnecessary contact with coworkers and customers and, thus, are a fundamental part of public health insurance. Paid sick days protect workers from being fired when they are too sick to work and offer substantial savings to employers by reducing turnover and minimizing absenteeism.


      Paid Sick Days Can Help Contain Health Care Costs
      by Kevin Miller, PhD (April 2010)

      Health spending in the United States as a proportion of GDP has more than doubled in the past 35 years and is the highest among all nations in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).


      Valuing Good Health in Connecticut: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by Kevin Miller, PhD, and Claudia Williams (April 2010)

      Connecticut lawmakers are now considering SB 63, which would require employers to provide all workers with paid sick days. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has estimated the costs and benefits of the proposed law, using governmentcollected data, peer-reviewed research literature, and a thoroughly vetted methodology. Below are key findings from IWPR’s costbenefit analysis.


      The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by Kevin Miller, PhD (March 2010)

      Testimony of Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Institute for Women’s Policy Research Before the House Labor Committee of the 96th General Assembly of Illinois regarding H.B. 3665, the Healthy Workplace Act


      Memorandum: Possible amendment to L.D. 1665, An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1
      by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (March 2010)

      This memo addresses the estimated impact of a proposed amendment to L.D. 1665, which would require Maine employers to allow workers to accrue paid sick days.


      Sick at Work: Infected Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic
      by Robert Drago, PhD, Pennsylvania State University, and Kevin Miller, PhD (January 2010)

      During the recent flu pandemic, workers were urged to stay home when ill. Many employees in the U.S., however, either cannot take leave when they or a child are sick or do not receive pay for doing so, forcing them to choose between their paycheck and the health of their children, customers, coworkers, and selves. 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey data reveal that two of five private sector workers lack paid sick days coverage, though 89 percent of state and local government employees and virtually all federal workers receive paid sick days.

      #B284, Briefing Paper, 14 pages
      Preview not available

      The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
      by (January 2010)

      Testimony of Kevin Miller, Ph.D., before the Joint Standing Committee on Labor of the 124th Maine State Legislature regarding L.D. 1665, “An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1”

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