Sick Days and Family Medical Leave

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 earned  sick days.  With no job protections or paid sick leave, these workers face impossible choices between taking time to access healthcare for themselves or their loved ones and potentially losing wages or even their jobs.

At the same time, the nation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an historic act that allowed many workers time to care for themselves or their loved ones. However, many workers are unable to take advantage of this policy, which guarantees only unpaid leave, because they cannot afford to take to with family without pay. Many more remain ineligible for even unpaid leave, because their employer is exempt from the policy or they have insufficient tenure in their job.

As part of its work life and job quality work, CLASP advocates for state and federal earned sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance policies that will prevent more workers from being denied the time to tend to their own or a family member's health, or care for a new child. Across the country, campaigns to secure these workplace protections for all workers are gaining momentum.

Apr 15, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

One year later, the results of Jersey City’s Earned Sick Days law are promising

By Felicia J. Onuma

One year after Jersey City’s earned sick days ordinance took effect, the verdict is in: workers and business are both winning big. Contrary to opponents’ predictions, a new study shows that more than one-third of employers have experienced higher employee productivity, made better-quality hires, and had less employee turnover since implementing the law. Earned Sick Days in Jersey City: A Study of Employers and Employees at Year One, published by Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work, echoes the findings of numerous other reports on the effects of earned sick days laws on employers.

In September 2013, Jersey City became the first jurisdiction in New Jersey to adopt an earned sick days ordinance. The law, which took effect in January 2014, enables workers in businesses with 10 or more employees to earn up to 5 paid sick days each year. Workers in businesses with 9 or fewer employees can earn up to five unpaid sick days.

For most Jersey City businesses, compliance with the law has not been detrimental. Most employers have observed little change in employee behavior. Moreover, many have noted significant benefits. More than 92 percent of employers reported no change in the use of paid sick days following implementation of the law; another 4 percent reported that their employees were taking fewer sick days. More than one-third of employers reported more productivity, less turnover, and improved quality of new hires.

As expected, Jersey City’s law is also helping workers. More than half of Jersey City employees reported earning at least one sick day since the law took effect. The percentage is even higher (60 percent) among workers who have been with the same employer for more than a year. Furthermore, nearly 72 percent of employees who had more sick days due to the law reported higher job satisfaction. 

Jersey City’s experience is not unique. In other jurisdictions with sick leave laws, the majority of employers are complying with standards and reaping their benefits. In San Francisco and  Connecticut, 82 percent and 93 percent of employers, respectively, provide paid sick time to their employees as required by law. Further, the majority of San Francisco and Connecticut employers, as well as those in Seattle, reported no change in costs, profitability, customer service, or employee morale due to earned sick days standards.

New Jersey municipalities are leading the charge on sick days nationwide. Across the state, Jersey City and seven other cities (Newark, Passaic, East Orange, Patterson, Irvington, Trenton, and Montclair), have implemented earned sick days laws. This report on Jersey City’s experience offers encouragement and insight to other jurisdictions as they work to implement their own laws.

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