Family Values @ Work

Americans Get Fewer Paid Sick Days Than Two Decades Ago

August 16, 2013

Compared to 1993, Americans now get fewer paid sick days from their employerson average, dropping from 10 days a year to eight for a worker who has been with a company for a year. The decrease becomes bigger the longer an employee stays on: after five years a worker now gets eight days compared to 13 previously, nine after 10 years compared to 15 before, and 10 after 20 years compared to 17 in 1993.

While workers get more vacation time today than in the past, that increase is more than offset by the decrease in paid sick leave. And the average number of holidays has also gone down from 10 to eight.

BLS paid sick days and vacation

Meanwhile, many workers still don’t have any access to paid sick leave at all: About 40 percent of private sector workers can’t take a paid day off to care for themselves or a family member when illness strikes, including 80 percent of low-income workers.

Some state and local communities have recently sought to expand that pool by guaranteeing all workers access to paid sick leave. New York City recently passed a bill, becoming the largest city in the country with such a law, joining four other cities — Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC; and Portland, Oregon — and the state of Connecticut. A push for similar legislation is now being made in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Yet at the same time, a wave of so-called “preemption bills” that block local communities from enacting paid sick leave legislation have cropped up across the country, with the latest passed in Florida.

But while many businesses oppose these bills, arguing that they will drive up costs, research shows just the opposite. An audit of Washington, DC’s law found no negative impact on businesses, while a study of San Francisco’s policy found little negative effect and strong business support, and the law was even found to have spurred job growth. In Connecticut, there has been little cost andbig potential upsides.