Study reveals inaccessibility of paid leave for low-income workers
About two-thirds of service-sector workers said they could not take leave, or took less leave than they wanted, when they experienced a major life event, according to a Harvard and UC San Francisco study released today. Within this group, 71% said the reason was they couldn’t afford to.
Why it matters: Part of President Biden’s American Families Plan provides 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family and sick leave to workers, marking the first time that a U.S. president has introduced a national-level paid leave program.
By the numbers: The study, which Axios is first to report, shows exactly how difficult it was for low-income workers to think about taking time off in the fall of 2020 — whether for a personal medical need, caregiving, new child or a combination of qualifying events.
- Men (38%) were more likely than women (28%) to say they didn't take leave or as much as they would have liked to out of fear that they would lose their jobs.
- Hispanic workers (53%) and Black workers (49%) were the most likely to say they felt pressure to avoid taking time off or fear job loss compared with white workers (39%).
- The survey covered 8,500 of those who worked for 85 of the largest companies across retail, grocery, delivery and fulfillment and food service, including Walmart, Target and Starbucks.
- The median wage of workers surveyed was $12.75 per hour.
What they're saying: The study is among the first to document the extent to which paid leave is inaccessible among front-line low-wage workers, researchers Elaine Zundl, Julia Goodman and Daniel Schneider tell Axios.
The bottom line: Making the case for paid leave, financially fragile workers "are serving food and going hungry," Schneider says.