A decade’s worth of research has revealed the many ways in which paid sick days standards would benefit our economy, our families and our communities — and which industries are most and least likely to offer paid sick days to their workers.
Below, find legislative analyses, business studies, public health studies, demographic studies, family economic security studies, public opinion research and other relevant research about paid sick days.
How have paid sick days policies been working?
Washington, D.C.: Audit of the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008, Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, June 2013.
Shows decisively that the District of Columbia paid sick days law, passed in 2008, does not harm businesses.
Connecticut: State of Connecticut Leisure and Hospitality Sector Employment, Connecticut Department of Labor, 2013.
The Connecticut paid sick days law, passed in 2011, covers primarily businesses and workers in the leisure and hospitality sector. State labor data show that employment in this sector has continued to rise since the law’s implementation.
See Business Studies section below for a description.
San Francisco: Paid Sick Leave Does Not Harm Business Growth or Job Growth. John Petro, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, October 2010.
See Business Studies section below for a description.
What would a paid sick days law do?
Expanding Access to Paid Sick Leave: The Impact of the Healthy Families Act on America’s Workers. Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, March 2010.
Reviews the expected impact of a proposed paid sick days law, the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1152/S. 2460 in the 111th Congress), on America’s workforce, with particular emphasis on impact on low-income, minority, and women workers.
San Francisco's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees. See Business Studies section below for a description.
Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act. See Business Studies section below for a description.
A Health Impact Assessment of the Healthy Families Act of 2009. See Public Health Studies section below for a description.
How does a paid sick days policy affect business?
Paid Sick Leave: Prevalence, Provision, and Usage among Full-Time Workers in Private Industry. See Demographic Studies section below for a description.
Policy brief about Connecticut’s paid sick days proposal. Estimates the cost of providing paid sick days as a percentage of businesses’ gross sales. Using industry-specific data, concludes that the cost to those employers covered under the proposal who are not currently providing paid sick days will average .05% (five one-hundredths of a percent) of sales, a miniscule cost compared to other business costs.
San Francisco's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees. Robert Drago and Vicky Lovell, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2011.
The latest study of San Francisco’s paid sick days law. Finds that most city workers benefited from the law, two-thirds of employers are supportive of it (and only one in six had to create a new paid sick days policy), and that the median worker uses only three paid sick days annually, out of a maximum of nine.
Paid Sick Leave Does Not Harm Business Growth or Job Growth. John Petro, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, October 2010.
An analysis of the impact of San Francisco’s 2006 paid sick days law on city businesses, finding that business growth and employment were not harmed by the law.
Summarizes strategies San Francisco employers used to implement the nation's first paid sick days law and concludes that businesses were able to implement the paid sick leave requirement with minimal impacts.
Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act. Vicky Lovell. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2005.
Presents a comprehensive estimate of the costs and savings associated with the federal Healthy Families Act and finds that if workers were provided just seven paid sick days per year, our national economy would experience a net savings of approximately $8 billion per year.
Work-Family Benefits: Which Ones Maximize Profits? Christine Siegwarth Meyer, et al., Journal of Managerial Issues, 2001.
Concludes that implementing minimum paid sick days standards would have no negative impact on companies that already provide paid sick days. In fact, paid sick days standards would "level the playing field" by enabling smaller companies who want to provide paid sick days an opportunity to compete with larger companies.
How does a paid sick days policy affect public health?
Policies to Reduce Influenza in the Workplace: Impact Assessments Using an Agent-Based Model. Supriya Kumar, et al., American Journal of Public Health, 2013.
Studies the impact of policies like paid sick days and “flu days” (additional time people would take off when they have sick days and also are educated about the importance of staying home with a contagious illness) in reducing the spread of flu in the workplace. The findings reveal that, using an agent-based model to simulate an influenza epidemic, providing universal paid sick days reduced workplace infections by nearly 6 percent, and offering even one paid “flu day” reduced flu transmission by 25 percent, while two “flu days” reduced the spread of flu by nearly 40 percent.
Study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers finds that workers who have access to paid sick days are significantly more likely to undergo routine cancer screenings and to visit a doctor or obtain other medical care. Women workers with paid sick days are more likely to receive mammograms and Pap tests at suggested intervals and adult workers with paid sick days are more likely to undergo a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Concludes that lack of paid sick days appears to be a potential barrier to obtaining cancer screenings and preventive medical care.
Paid Sick Leave and Nonfatal Occupational Injuries. Abay Asfaw, et al., American Journal of Public Health, 2012
Study by researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that workers with access to paid sick days were 28 percent less likely than workers without access to paid sick days to be injured on the job. The strongest connection between access to paid sick days and a lower incidence of occupational injuries occurs in high-risk sectors and occupations.
The Impact of Workplace Policies and Other Social Factors on Self-Reported Influenza-Like Illness Incidence During the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic. Supriya Kumar, et al., American Journal of Public Health, 2011.
Determines that workers’ lack of access to paid sick days during the 2009 H1N1 virus pandemic may have caused five million additional individuals to contract the illness, including 1.2 million Hispanic individuals. Concludes that a national paid sick days law could lessen infection rates during a disease outbreak.
Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency Department Visits. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2011.
A study of the effect of paid sick days on health care costs. Finds that universal access to paid sick days for U.S. workers would result in 1.3 million fewer visits to hospital emergency departments annually, saving at least $1.1 billion in health care costs. About half of the savings would go to taxpayer-funded insurance programs. Also finds that workers with paid sick days are more likely to report being in good health and less likely to delay medical care for themselves and family members than workers without paid sick days.
Factors Associated with Food Workers Working while Experiencing Vomiting or Diarrhea. Steven Sumner et al., Journal of Food Protection, 2011.
A nine-state study of restaurant workers. Estimates that one in five restaurant workers have come to work with vomiting and diarrhea in the past year, creating dangerous health conditions. Identifies factors associated with a higher incidence of sick workers, including high-volume restaurants, policies requiring a doctor’s note after returning from an illness and the unavailability of on-call substitute workers. Suggests that lack of paid sick days may also be a factor: surveyed workers with paid sick leave were less likely to work sick than those without paid sick leave.
Serving While Sick: High Risks and Low Benefits for the Nation’s Restaurant Workforce, and Their Impact on the Consumer. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, September 2010.
Shows that an overwhelming majority of workers in the restaurant industry don’t have access to paid sick days and that their lack of paid sick days is a threat to the public health: two-thirds of restaurant servers and cooks have worked while sick.
Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences. See Demographic Studies section below.
Paid Sick Days Can Help Contain Health Care Costs. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, April 2010.
Lists the variety of ways in which a paid sick days policy can contribute to lowering health care costs, including reducing contagion, increasing access to lower-cost preventive care, and reducing expensive emergency room usage.
Sick at Work: Infected Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, February 2010.
Shows that an estimated 8 million workers sick with H1N1 took no days off during the pandemic’s peak, and may have infected as many as 7 million of their coworkers, likely prolonging the pandemic. These startling numbers demonstrate that in the absence of a national paid sick days policy, sick workers will continue to work, and risk spreading disease to coworkers and the public.
A Health Impact Assessment of the Healthy Families Act of 2009. Health Impact Partners, updated September 2009.
Lays out the mechanisms by which paid sick days legislation in this case, the federal Healthy Families Act — is likely to positively impact the public health, including reduced transmission of disease, greater compliance with public health advice, and increased use of preventive versus emergency room care.
Paid Sick Days in Massachusetts: Containing Health Care Costs through Prevention and Timely Treatment. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, January 2009.
Examines the impact a Massachusetts paid sick days law could have on containing health care costs in that state.
Working Sick, Getting Stiffed: How Some of America’s Biggest Companies Fail Their Workers and Jeopardize Public Health. Association of Community Organizations for Reforms Now; ACORN’s Healthy Workers Healthy Families Campaign for Paid Sick Days, 2007.
Highlights the lack of paid sick days among the 50 largest food service and retail companies, urges businesses to reform their sick days practices, and recommends that policymakers intervene to protect the interests of working people.
Women, Work and Family Health: A Balancing Act, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003.
Examines women's roles in family health care decision-making and coordination, and the effects on women’s careers and financial stability.
The Need for Paid Sick Days: The lack of a federal policy further erodes family economic security. Elise Gould, Kai Filion and Andrew Green, Economic Policy Institute, 2011.
Examines the effect of lack of paid sick days on family economic security and finds that just a few missed days of work due to illness, if unpaid, can spell financial disaster for the average family. For example, the loss of pay from just 3.5 unpaid sick days is equivalent to the entire grocery budget of the average two-earner family without paid sick days access. For workers who are fired for taking sick time, the financial consequences can be even worse.
Paid Sick Days and Employer Penalties for Absence. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2011.
Analyzes 2010 survey data to find that even workers with access to paid sick days may incur penalties, including dismissal, for using them. Points to the need for policies that ensure access to job-protected paid sick time.
Who has paid sick days, and who needs them?
Sick Kids, Struggling Parents. University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 2012.
National survey of parents of children under six who are in daycare sheds light on how working parents cope when their children fall sick. Nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed had children who could not go to daycare because of illness in the past year, and one in three of these parents are concerned about losing jobs or losing pay when taking off work to care for their sick children. Provides additional evidence that working parents need a paid sick days standard to allow them to care for ill children.
Who Cares for the Sick Kids? Parents’ Access to Paid Time to Care for a Sick Child.. Kristin Smith and Andrew Schaefer, Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, 2012.
Study of paid sick days for the care of children finds that more than half of all working parents lack paid sick days they can use to care for a sick child, although significant disparities exist based on parents’ income and education level. While working mothers and fathers have similar rates of access to paid sick days for child caregiving, mothers report staying home with sick children much more than fathers do. Study also associates access to paid sick days for child caregiving with higher levels of job satisfaction.
Paid Sick Leave: Prevalence, Provision, and Usage among Full-Time Workers in Private Industry. Ross O. Barthold and Jason L. Ford, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012.
Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey analysis shows that workers who earn a fixed number of paid sick days use, on average, 4 days per year about half of the 8-9 days they typically earn. This data dispels the myth that workers routinely abuse or over-utilize paid sick time.
Finds a significant difference in paid sick days access between rural, suburban and urban workers, with rural workers less likely than suburban and urban workers to have five or more paid sick days to use for their own illness and also less likely to have five or more paid sick days to use to care for a sick child. Rural part-time workers are found to be at a particular disadvantage in terms of access to paid sick days.
44 Million U.S. Workers Lacked Paid Sick Days in 2010: 77 Percent of Food Service Workers Lacked Access. Institute for Women's Policy Research, January 2011.
Provides an updated estimate of the number of private-sector workers in the U.S. who lacked paid sick days in 2010. IWPR finds that in addition to the 40 million workers who lack any access to employer-provided paid sick days, an additional 4.2 million haven’t been on the job long enough to qualify for their employers’ paid sick days benefits — for a total of 44 million U.S. workers without paid sick days, or 42 percent of the private-sector workforce.
Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences. National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago for the Public Welfare Foundation Publication, June 2010.
The most up-to-date public opinion polling on paid sick days, including demographic breakdowns. Also contains information about respondents’ personal experience with paid sick days, showing that workers without access to paid sick days are more likely to work sick, send a child to school or daycare sick, and use the emergency room.
The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Measure Up? Jody Heymann, et al; Harvard School of Public Health Project on Global Working Families, 2007.
A cross-national comparison of work and family policies in 177 countries, with emphasis on how the U.S. compares to other nations. The Index concludes that the U.S. lags significantly behind other countries in its lack of access to paid sick days and paid family leave for workers.
One Sick Child Away From Being Fired: When “Opting Out” Is Not an Option, Joan C. Williams, Center for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings College of Law, 2006.
Examines union arbitration cases and finds that low-income workers are often disciplined or fired when they miss work to care for their families. Williams concludes that employers can better meet the needs of workers by implementing workplace standards like paid sick days.
No Time to be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers when Workers Don’t Have Paid Sick Leave. Vicky Lovell, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2004.
Investigates the availability of paid sick days in the U.S. by industry and demographic categories. Lovell finds that nearly half of all private-sector workers do not have a single paid sick day, and examines the ramifications for workers, families, businesses, and communities.
Getting Time Off: Access to Leave among Working Parents, Katherin Ross Phillips, Urban Institute, 2004.
Examines whether access to paid leave, including paid sick days, differs by socioeconomic status and finds that low-income workers have less access to all forms of leave. Phillips asserts that increasing access to paid leave would help provide economic security for many working parents.
Poll: Survey Findings On Connecticut Paid Sick Leave Law. Hart Research Associates, 2011.
Summer 2011 survey of voters in Connecticut, just after the signing of the state’s paid sick days law, finds that “a solid majority of all voters regardless of partisanship have a favorable opinion of the new law.” Further, voters reward and associate an array of favorable traits to legislators who voted in favor of it. And the issue of paid sick days has the potential to mobilize and energize hard-to-reach constituencies.
Poll: Findings and Political Implications for Paid Sick Day Legislation. Anzalone Liszt Research, 2011.
Spring 2011 surveys of voters in Connecticut, Philadelphia and Denver echo previous national polls, finding that "there is deep and unwavering geographic and key demographic group support" for paid sick days legislation. The support extends across party lines and gender, race and ethnic categories. Further, supporters are more likely to support public officials who back paid sick days legislation.
Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences. See Demographic Studies section.
Survey of retail workers in New York City finds that significant shares of workers in non-union large stores and national chains face low wages, unpredictable scheduling and lack of paid sick days. Less than half of the retail workers surveyed had paid sick days, and only half of those whose employer provided paid sick days had actually used them, suggesting fears of relation.
The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. A Study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, 2009.
It’s official: women now make up half of the U.S. paid workforce. In this groundbreaking report, the nation’s top experts explore what this fact means for our families, workplaces, and workplace policies.
Times are Changing: Gender and Generation at Work and Home. Families and Work Institute, 2009.
The 21st-century American workforce differs significantly from that of past generations. This report examines some of these changes, many of which underscore the need for public policies to catch up to modern realities.
Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2009.
An in-depth examination of family caregiving in the U.S., this study shows that most unpaid caregivers also have paid jobs — demonstrating the need for public policies that help them succeed at both their work and their family responsibilities.
Lost Productive Work Time Costs From Health Conditions in the United States: Results From the American Productivity Audit, Walter Stewart, et al., Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2003.
Examines data from the American Productivity Audit and finds that reduced productivity at work stemming from illness (also known as "presenteeism") is responsible for 71 percent of total lost worker productivity due to illness — far surpassing the productivity lost by sick workers who stay home. Presenteeism thus costs employers $160 billion per year. This cost could be significantly reduced if all workers had access to paid sick days.