Paid Sick Days: Low income workers hit hardest

The U.S. is currently the only developed nation that does not require some paid sick leave for workers. Nearly 40 percent of private sector workers have no paid sick leave, including 78 percent of hotel workers and 85 percent of food service workers.

A survey last year by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that “68 percent of those not eligible for paid sick days said they had gone to work with a contagious illness like the flu.” As CAP Senior Fellow Ann O’Leary and Karen Kornbluh, a U.S. Representative to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, pointed out in The Shriver Report: A Women’s Nation Changes Everything, “too often, most low- and many moderate-wage workers cannot access even the minimum benefits provided to more highly paid workers.” And this is true of paid sick leave, as 88 percent of workers in the top 10 percent of wage earners have it, compared to just 22 percent of workers in the bottom 10.

“Hopefully, employers are doing the right thing and not disciplining workers who are out sick as a result of the flu,” wrote Center for American Progress Senior Economist Heather Boushey. “But there’s no penalty for employers who choose not to pay workers in this situation, or who refuse workers any time off at all.”

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