FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC—Two publications released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimate the costs and benefits of the Denver paid sick days initiative, for both employers and employees. According to IWPR’s analysis, the law, requiring business to provide access to paid sick days to their employees, would result in a net savings of $1.4 million annually for employers, would reduce health care costs in Denver by $2.6 million annually due to reduced use of hospital emergency departments, and would reduce health disparities between white workers and black and Hispanic workers.
The cost benefits to employers are due largely to savings from reduced turnover. Employees with access to paid sick days cannot be fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for having to miss work when ill, to seek support services for domestic violence (also called “safe days”), or to care for an ill family member. Adequate time off can also translate into enhanced worker loyalty and satisfaction.
Employees with paid sick days are also less likely to use emergency room care, instead seeking primary care with a doctor or tending to an illness or medical condition before it worsens. With emergency department costs shared among private and public health insurers, IWPR estimates that public health insurance systems funded by Denver taxpayers would save $866,953 annually from reduced emergency department use if paid sick days were universal, out of a total savings to all insurers and individuals of $2.6 million annually.
“Paid sick days play an important role in improving workforce stability for businesses and in helping workers care for their families and access health services,” said Kevin Miller, Senior Research Associate at IWPR.
Employees tend to take fewer paid sick days than they are allotted according to IWPR analysis of the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the largest household health survey in the United States, which provides data on health-related behaviors. Half of all workers with paid sick days do not miss any days of work for illness in a given year. The Denver paid sick days initiative would provide nine paid sick days to employees at larger firms (with ten or more employees), and five days to employees in smaller businesses.
IWPR’s analysis also shows that black and Hispanic workers tend to have less access to paid sick days compared with other workers—and reducing this inequality could result in measurable health benefits for these groups. Denver workers with paid sick days are likely to have better self-reported health than those without access to paid sick days, as are their families. Research has shown that children have better short- and long-term health outcomes when they are cared for by their parents, as well as shorter hospital stays.
The costs savings of a paid sick days law in Denver will also extend to workers and their families, and to the broader community, as diseases are addressed more promptly and contagion is halted. Sick workers are more likely to spread illness to those their coworkers, customers, and others they come in contact with.
IWPR’s analyses use data from the NHIS, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Denver Department of Public Heath, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
About the Institute for Women's Policy Research
IWPR conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies and public policy programs at The George Washington University.