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Earned Sick Days in Portland Would Improve Public Health, Reduce Costs

Providing earned sick days is expected to save Portland employers more than $13 million per year, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).
Mar 07, 2013

Washington, DC—Providing earned sick days is expected to save Portland employers more than $13 million per year, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). The city’s proposed earned sick days legislation, “Protected Sick Time,” would not only reduce costs to employers in Portland, but would also reduce the spread of contagious illnesses yielding further public health costs savings.

Of the over 649,800 private sector workers in Portland, about 121,300 currently have no earned leave benefits of any kind and are eligible to receive leave under the proposed new legislation.

“Earned sick days are an inexpensive, but important, basic workplace benefit that help workers care for themselves and their families, and access health services,” said Barbara Gault, Vice President and Executive Director of IWPR.

Earned sick days can also reduce business and public health costs by cutting down on the spread of disease at work, helping employers avoid paying for low productivity, holding down nursing-home stays, reducing norovirus outbreaks in nursing homes, and preventing unnecessary hospital emergency department visits.

IWPR’s analysis of government statistics finds that workers typically take fewer paid sick days than they earn. When workers receive a maximum of five days off work for earned sick days, they miss an average of 1.3 days annually for illness and injury, excluding maternity leave. About half of all workers who are covered by earned sick days policies do not take any days off for illness or injury in a given year.

“Employers in Portland who offer earned sick time talk about improved employee retention,  higher morale, a healthier workforce, and appreciative customers,” said Andrea Paluso, Family Forward Oregon’s Executive Director. “Earned sick days is a modest policy that will have a big impact. At a time when many in the health care community, policy circles, and the general public are concerned about high and rising health care expenditures, the cost savings available from making earned sick days universal should receive serious attention.”

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 and public administration programs at The George Washington University.

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