Guaranteed paid time off work for personal illness is an essential component of job quality and economic security for workers. Still, many people of color and low-income people in the United States have no protections against lost wages or employment termination due to illness. Paid sick leave policies allow workers to earn a minimum number of paid and protected hours off work each year that can be used for sick time purposes, which may include illness and medical care for the worker or for the worker's family members.
There is broad public support for policy action to guarantee paid sick leave for all workers: according to polling by the National Partnership for Women and Families, 75 percent of Americans favor such a law, with strong support across all demographic and political affiliations. More than 34 million private-sector workers do not have access to a single paid sick day, including 38 percent of Black workers and 54 percent of Latinx workers.
Low-wage workers who cannot afford to lose a day's wages due to illness are less likely to seek medical care (for themselves and their families) than workers who have paid sick leave and are 1.5 times more likely to go to work with contagious illnesses. This means that lack of paid sick leave is a problem for individual workers and a public health threat.
In addition to improving job quality and stability for workers, guaranteed paid sick leave could also benefit employers and the economy as a whole, reducing employee turnover and increasing productivity, decreasing the spread of illnesses like influenza, and lowering health care costs. But the federal government has yet to address this critical issue, so city and state governments have taken the lead in advancing this fundamental right for workers.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see CEPR, National Partnership for Women and Families, and paidsickdays.org for more resources on paid sick leave.