The push for paid sick days gains steam across U.S.

December 8, 2011 | Tatsuko Go Hollo

Efforts to ensure paid sick leave as a basic workplace right have been gaining steam across the country (did you hear the Seattle City Council passed a paid sick days ordinance?), and a flood of recent reports have highlighted the social and economic benefits of paid sick leave.

A cost-benefit analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) examined the higher frequency of costly emergency room visits among those without paid sick leave. IWPR concluded that if workers had universal access to paid sick days, 1.3 million emergency department visits and $1 billion in health care costs could be avoided annually. Why? Because paid sick days enable people to better utilize primary care services and reduce the need for pricey emergency room visits.

These are powerful statistics, but the economic benefits of paid sick leave go far beyond the cost of healthcare. In a recent report, Demos highlights access to workplace benefits, including paid sick days, as one of their “strategies for turning bad jobs into quality employment.”

In a different report, Demos and the Young Invincibles identify paid sick leave as a “key policy” to improve the economic outlook for 18-34 year olds. Poll results showed only a quarter of young people have paid sick days, and the numbers are worse for women and Latinos. Further, younger generations feel they are worse off than their parents and many are fearful about losing a job due to illness.

Similarly, a recent report by Half in Ten found that work supports, such as paid sick leave, are particularly critical for low-income workers. They provide details about the economic need for paid sick days and other workplace benefits, and identify paid sick leave as an important indicator of a quality job. In a blog about Half in Ten’s findings, the National Partnership for Women and Families explains that without basic work supports, families will struggle to stay out of poverty and communities will experience halted economic growth.

These reports show lower health care costs, increased job security and stronger economic growth are associated with good workplace benefits – particularly paid sick days. Until all workers have access to these benefits, economic security will be out of reach for many individuals and families.

By the way, in case you hadn’t heard about Seattle’s paid sick days ordinance, watch City Council member Nick Licata discuss the recent local success. The Center for American Progress hosted an October event which brought together several champions of Paid Sick Days policies across the country, including Mr. Licata.

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Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, Paid Sick Days

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