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Sarah Fleisch Fink, General Counsel

Access to Paid Sick Days Reaches Record High, But Stark Disparities and Threats Persist

Sarah Fleisch Fink | July 27, 2018

A record number of people in this country — 71 percent of private sector workers — now have access to paid sick days, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last week. This is excellent news for working people, families, communities and businesses as the steady rise in access to this basic workplace protection continues. Unfortunately, however, there is more work to do since 34.2 million private sector workers still cannot earn a single paid sick day to recover from the flu, care for a sick child or seek preventive care.

Equally urgent is the need to end the shameful disparities in access based on income and job type. While 92 percent of the highest-wage workers have paid sick days, that number drops to less than one in three (31 percent) for the lowest-wage workers. Only 52 percent of service workers — who frequently interact with the public — have access to paid sick days.

As we fight to close these gaps, threats to progress also loom from corporate special interests that want to take away paid sick days guarantees for tens of millions of workers by allowing businesses to pick and choose what laws they follow. The deceptively named Workflex in the 21st Century Act, on which a House of Representatives subcommittee held a hearing this week, is a sham that would actually undermine state and local paid sick days laws, fair scheduling protections and laws that provide unpaid family and medical leave.

Working people need access to paid sick days no matter where they live, work or the type of job they have. We need Congress to prioritize the Healthy Families Act, which would establish a real national paid sick days standard and reject the so-called “Workflex” bill, which is an effort to weaken workers’ rights and local democracy.

Since 2015, the percentage of the private sector workforce with access to paid sick days has increased dramatically, by 10 percentage points. An enormous amount of credit goes to advocates and state and local lawmakers for driving this progress by winning paid sick days laws, which have been adopted in 10 states, the District of Columbia and 33 other jurisdictions. The deceptive “Workflex” bill would jeopardize these gains.

The benefits of paid sick days are clear. When workers can take time to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one, it improves public health, supports workers’ economic security and that of their families, and strengthens businesses and local economies. Help secure historic paid sick days advances by telling your members of Congress to support the Healthy Families Act and oppose attempts to reverse paid sick days progress and momentum.

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