Nov 6, 2023 - Economy & Business

More workers now get sick days

Share of U.S. workers with access to paid sick time, by wage group
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via the Economic Policy Institute; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The share of low-wage workers with paid sick leave has surged since 2010 but remains low, according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

Why it matters: Lack of sick leave forces workers to choose between making money or prioritizing their health. Often, especially for the lowest-paid, it's not much of a choice.

Zoom in: The sharp uptick is due to state laws over the past 10 years, 15 states and Washington, D.C., passed paid sick leave laws.

  • Today 78% of workers in the private sector can take a paid sick day, compared to 63% in 2010, the EPI said, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • The share of low-wage workers rose the most because they were the least likely to have any sick leave.
  • Still, an overwhelming majority of these lowest-paid workers — 61% — can't take a paid day off when they're sick.

The big picture: The U.S. is an outlier among rich countries in not having any national paid sick leave policy.

  • There was some hope back in 2020 that the pandemic would push policymakers — and employers — on this issue.
  • A narrowly crafted federal law that required some paid sick leave was passed in 2020,
  • But it expired the following year, and there's little appetite to do more.
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