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Health & Safety

Health and Safety

Women have a set of specific concerns when it comes to health. More often than not, women make the majority of health care-related decisions regarding health issues for their families, are the primary caregivers, and spend more than their male counterparts on health (KFF 2009; Agency for 2004). While women, on average, are more likely than men to have health insurance, they are at special risk of a number of specific health conditions, such as depression and exposure to intimate partner violence. Low-income women and women of color are especially likely to experience poor health outcomes, with African American women, in particular, showing much higher rates of HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and infants with low birth weight. These realities make consideration of woman-specific issues vitally important to policy decisions in the area of health.

IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.

An IWPR fact sheet reported that 44 million workers in the United States lacked paid sick days in 2010, with 77 percent of food service workers lacking access. Preceding the passage of the first state-wide paid sick days legislation in the United States in Connecticut, IWPR estimated that Connecticut taxpayers would save $4.7 million annually in a cost-benefit analysis of universal paid sick days provision.

Recent reports on policy impacts on breastfeeding rates estimate that the breastfeeding protections in the 2010 Affordable Care Act will increase the national rate of breastfeeding through six months of age by four full percentage points, giving more women and their children the opportunity to draw from the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, such as protection from childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome, and diabetes.

View our suggested resources page or multimedia page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

An Estimate of Program Cost under Oregon Senate Bill 966, the Family Leave Benefits Insurance Act
by (December 2008)

Children First for Oregon requested that the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analyze the Family Leave Benefits Insurance Act in order to provide lawmakers and policy advocates with information about the likely costs and use of a universal paid family leave insurance program in Oregon. This document presents that estimate.

 

Job Growth Strong with Paid Sick Days
by Vicky Lovell, PhD and Kevin Miller, PhD (October 2008)

Job growth has been strong in San Francisco compared with other Bay Area counties following implementation of a new paid sick days standard in San Francisco on February 5, 2007, according to data from the California Employment Development Department.1

 

Paid Sick Days Initiative Would Support Milwaukee Victims of Domestic Violence
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (September 2008)

Milwaukee’s paid sick days referendum would allow workers to take time from their scheduled hours on the job to recover from illness. It would also guarantee more than 260,000 Milwaukeeans the ability to access services for domestic violence and sexual assault, without the risk of losing wages or a job.1 While a relatively small number of Milwaukee workers will likely need paid time off for these purposes, this job-protected paid time off could be critical to building family safety and security.

 

A Prescription for Good Asthma Care for Children: Paid Sick Days for Milwaukee Parents Parents’ Lack of Job Flexibility Hurts Children with Chronic Health Problems
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (September 2008)

Asthma treatment is a priority for Wisconsin’s public health system, according to the Wisconsin Turning Point Transformation Team.1 The most common chronic health problem for children, asthma sent nearly 3,800 Wisconsin children to the emergency room in 2005, and more than 700 were hospitalized, at a cost of close to $4 million.

 

Valuing Good Health in Milwaukee: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (August 2008)

 

The Cost of Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers: Revising a CBO Cost Estimate to Reflect H.R. 5781’s Proposed Four-Week Policy
by Vicky Lovell, PhD and Kevin Miller, PhD (August 2008)

org The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the five-year cost of a proposed paid parental leave program for federal workers.1 The estimate for H.R. 5781 makes a problematic assumption about administration of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (FEPPLA) by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The CBO estimates a 50 percent probability that OPM will use the authority granted in the bill to increase the amount of paid leave available to eligible employees to eight weeks (from four weeks) in the second fiscal year of the program.

 
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Valuing Good Health in Milwaukee, The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Vicky Lovell (August 2008)

Policy makers across the country are increasingly interested in ensuring the adequacy of paid sick days policies. In addition to concerns about workers' ability to respond to their own health needs, there is growing recognition that, with so many dual-earners and single-parent families, family members' health needs can be addressed only by workers taking time from their scheduled hours on the job. Paid sick days policies also allow workers with contagious diseases to avoid unnecessary contact with co-workers and customers and, thus, are a fundamental public health measure. Paid sick days prevent workers from being fired when they are too sick to work and offer substantial savings to employers by reducing turnover and minimizing absenteeism. Milwaukee voters will have the opportunity to enact a minimum paid sick days standard on November 4th, 2008. The Institute for Women's Policy Research has estimated the costs and benefits of the Milwaukee paid sick days referendum, using government collected data, peer-reviewed research literature, and a methodology that has been implemented in several other jurisdictions. This executive summary presents key findings from the cost/benefit analysis.

 

The Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces Act: Impacts on Workers, Employers, and the Public
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (July 2008)

 

Valuing Good Health in Milwaukee: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (July 2008)

 
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Some Small and Medium-Size Establishments Join Large Ones in Offering Paid Sick Days
by (June 2008)

 

Valuing Good Health in California: The Costs and Benefits of the Healthy Families, Healthy Workplaces Act of 2008
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2008)

Policy makers across the country are increasingly concerned about the adequacy of existing paid sick leave policies. In addition to concerns about workers’ own health, there is growing recognition that, with so many dual-earner and single-parent families, families’ health needs can only be addressed by workers taking a break from their scheduled time on the job. Allowing workers with contagious diseases to avoid unnecessary contact with co-workers and customers is a fundamental public health measure. Paid sick days protect workers from being fired when they are too sick to work. And paid sick days policies offer substantial savings to employers by reducing turnover and minimizing absenteeism.

 

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)

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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.

 

Keeping Moms on the Job: The Impacts of Health Insurance and Child Care on Job Retention and Mobility among Low-Income Mothers
by Sunhwa Lee, PhD (January 2007)

Since the 1996 welfare reform legislation, government support programs for low-income families have emphasized “work-first” strategies, viewing employment as the primary route to self-sufficiency. The employment situations of welfare leavers and other low-wage workers, however, show considerable instability. Most welfare leavers, for instance, find jobs, but many lose their jobs fairly quickly and experience a substantial period of unemployment before finding another job. While job changes can lead to improved earnings for some workers, this does not seem to be the case for most low-skilled workers or former welfare recipients. For these workers, job retention is crucial for accumulating work experience and improving earnings over time. Yet, for many low-wage workers or welfare leavers who are single mothers facing the dual responsibilities of work and family, sustaining employment and earning a living wage pose a tremendous challenge.

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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.

 
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