Paid Sick Days
The nation has entered an exciting new era that will allow millions of lower-wage workers to access health care insurance. Tragically, many of these workers will be unable to take advantage of this historic new benefit because they cannot take time off of work to get the care they need due to lack of paid sick days. As part of its work life and job quality work, CLASP advocates for state and federal paid sick days policies that will allow more workers to take time off when they need to tend to their own or a family member's health.
May 12, 2015 | PERMALINK »
Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave: Just What the Doctor Ordered for National Women’s Health Week
By Felicia Onuma
As we celebrate National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) this week (May 10-16, 2015), advocates, policymakers, and others will mark the progress made in improving health care for women. One sometimes overlooked, but critical, ingredient to health care is access to paid sick time and paid family and medical leave. These worker protections ensure that workers have the time to see their health care providers and attend to their health needs. Today, in honor of NWHW, CLASP is releasing a brief on the importance of paid leave to preventive health care.
NWHW was instituted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health in 1999 to draw attention to strategies that help women lead healthier, longer, and safer lives. One critical aspect of achieving these goals is increasing routine health checkups and screenings for women in order to prevent illnesses, diseases, and other health problems—or at least detect them at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be effective. Yet, without paid leave, this avenue to better health may be a nonstarter for far too many women.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) an increasing number of Americans, especially low-income earners, now have access to health care. According to most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 16.4 million Americans who were previously uninsured have gained coverage since the ACA took effect. Besides expanding health care access, one particularly welcome aspect of this health care reform law is that it covers 100 percent of preventive care for women’s health. This means that women who seek a wide variety of preventive services, ranging from mammograms and well-woman visits to contraception, can get them without any without any out-of-pocket expenses.
Despite this important legal step forward in access to preventive care, too many women do not have take the time they need to actually get these services. With our country’s labor standards seriously lagging behind those in much of the rest of the world, an inordinate number of Americans cannot take time away from work to reap the benefits of this reform. Today, more than 40 million workers in the U.S. (39 percent) are without access to paid sick days and nearly 95 million workers (87 percent) have no paid family leave. Among low-wage workers earning $15,000 or less per year, 80 percent do not have paid sick days. Similarly, 80 percent of part-time workers working fewer than 20 hours per week do not have paid sick days.
Lack of access to earned sick days impedes many women from heeding the advice of medical practitioners to seek preventive health care. In a 2014 study, researchers found that women without sick leave were 12 percent less likely to undergo breast cancer screening than women with sick leave. According to HHS, nearly 10 percent of women who delayed prenatal care were unable to take time off work or school to obtain medical care. Furthermore, those with an insufficient amount of sick days usually opt to save their only available leave to tend to their children, often times skipping or delaying care for themselves.
For their own or a family member’s longer-term illness, or to welcome a new baby, about 60 percent of workers have access to unpaid job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, even for those who qualify for FMLA leave, the financial cost of taking unpaid time off is often impossible to bear. Among workers with unpaid FMLA leave, 52 percent deferred care and 50 percent chose to forgo care altogether because they could not afford to take leave or were fearful of losing their jobs.
Fortunately, a growing number of states and cities – 21 jurisdictions – have now passed paid sick days laws. Three states have enacted paid family leave programs. And a growing number of states, cities, and even counties are providing their own public employees with paid family and medical leave. Dozens of campaigns to pass paid sick days and paid family leave at the national, state, and city level are gaining momentum around the country. This important movement forward is worth celebrating this National Women’s Health Week. At the same time, this occasion presents an opportunity to step up the intensity of our calls for further action on paid leave. It’s just what the doctor ordered for women’s health, and for the nation.
- Felicia J. Onuma | Apr 15, 2015 One year later, the results of Jersey City’s Earned Sick Days law are promising
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Feb 24, 2015 Inequities in Paid Sick Days Access, “No-Fault” Attendance Policies Show Need for Public Policy
- Scott Behson | Jun 09, 2014 Paternity Leave for All Dads
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Jun 06, 2014 Getting Down to Business Newsletter - June 2014
- Lauren French | May 14, 2014 Growing Attention on Paid Leave as a Dimension of Inequality
- Liz Ben Ishai and Alex Wang | May 12, 2015 Paid Leave Necessary for an Ounce of Prevention: Paid Leave and Access to Preventive Health Care
- Kisha Bird, Anna Cielinski, Judy Mortrude, and David Socolow | Apr 17, 2015 Promoting Economic and Career Success for Low-Income Youth and Adults: A Preview of Key Provisions in the Proposed WIOA Regulations
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Nov 10, 2014 Implementing Earned Sick Days Laws: Top Tips from Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City
- CLASP | Sep 16, 2014 New Census Data Tell Us That Poverty Fell in 2013
- Aug 28, 2014 A Job Creation and Job Quality Agenda for Labor Day