The Benefits of Paid Sick Leave for Employers, Workers, Families, and Communities

In the wake of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that workers stay home when sick. But for the roughly 33.6 million workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, abiding by this recommendation is a near impossibility. One study found that nearly 95% of Americans support paid leave for workers impacted by the coronavirus — despite this, the anti-worker “Freedom” Foundation remains staunch in their stance against the lifesaving and widely approved workplace benefit calling it a “a cure worse than the disease.”

While unions across the country are doing all they can to protect and support workers on the frontline — ensuring salary continuation for quarantined workers, expediting access to protective personal equipment, and calling for Courageous Duty Pay for public-facing workers — the billionaire-funded “Freedom” Foundation and their staff continue to spread misinformation, mock union workers fighting the pandemic, and politicize the pandemic by trying to convince politicians to forcibly stop voluntary union dues. They’ve even harassed firefighters at their homes because they’re union members.

Despite the Freedom Foundation’s opposition, the studies on paid sick leave prove the policy not only benefits workers, but also their families, their employers, and their communities.

Benefits for Employers

One of the billionaire-funded front group’s primary talking points against paid sick leave is the myth of the undue financial burden the policy has on employers. The Northwest Accountability Project has debunked that myth in another blog post — when workers are provided with paid sick leave, it actually financially benefits employers by preventing the workplace spread of illness and reducing employee turnover. However, the benefits for employers extend far beyond this: a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the availability of paid sick leave could help reduce the incidence of workplace injury. Workers with paid sick leave are 28% less likely to be injured at work. For employers, this means increased productivity, fewer worker compensation claims, and higher overall employee workplace satisfaction.

Benefits for Workers 

For workers, the benefits may seem obvious — a worker does not have to choose between getting paid and going to work while ill — but the true range of benefits is more far-reaching. According to a study by the BMC Public Health, the lack of paid sick leave is a barrier to obtaining lifesaving cancer screenings and other medical care. Meaning, having access to paid sick leave was positively associated with the ability to seek testing and preventive care. A 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute found that paid sick leave grants workers with the security to care for themselves, while still being able to provide necessities for their families: “The average worker without access to paid sick leave for about three days lost wages that amounted to a household’s entire monthly grocery budget or monthly utilities budget.”

Benefits for Families 

For families, the benefits are wide-ranging. Parents and caregivers with paid sick leave are better equipped to care for of family members, due to their ability to take paid time off to stay home with them while ill and take them to the routine medical appointments. The Journal of The Americans Academy of Pediatrics found that parents without access to paid sick leave would be more likely to send their child(ren) to school sick. In a similar vein, a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that parents without paid sick leave were “2.5 times more likely than those with paid sick days to report taking a child or family member to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off during their normal job hours.” Furthermore, children whose parents have access to paid sick leave were 13% more likely to get the flu vaccine and also 13% more likely to have received an annual checkup.

Benefits for Communities

The benefits of paid sick leave even extend to the larger community: the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 1.3 million emergency room visits in the US could be prevented each year by providing workers with paid sick leave. According to this same study, this translates to a reduction in medical costs by an astronomical $1.1. billion annually and over $500 million saved for public insurance programs. The Center for American Progress reported that paid sick leave could curb the spread of COVID-19.

A study by the New York City of Consumer Affairs found that after the city implemented a paid sick leave mandate, the economy flourished: Unemployment dropped to the lowest it had been in six years, the labor participation rate reached a record high of 70%, and the private sector added 112,300 jobs.

For marginalized communities, the necessity for paid sick leave is even more dire. Latinx workers are among the least likely of any racial group to have access to paid sick leave, and an additional 1.2 million cases of flu-like illness during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic among Latinx workers can be attributed to the lack of paid sick leave. For survivors of domestic violence, the National Partnership of Women and Families advocates for paid sick days as a standard to “help provide victims and survivors [with] the support and job stability they need to escape and address violence.”

Now more than ever, workers need the stability and security of paid sick leave. With each passing day, the so-called “Freedom” Foundation and their anti-worker, anti-paid sick leave agenda drift further into the billionaire-class fringes. They are so clearly on the wrong side of this battle. Across the board, from employers and their families to communities and entire cities, we see that paid sick leave has a rippling, positive effect. Paid sick leave does more than just allow workers to stay home when sick, it allows for broad, positive economic transformation.