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Why is Paid Sick Leave Necessary for Working Families?

Everyone gets sick, but not everyone can afford to take unpaid time off from work in order to care for themselves or a family member. For some families, missing even a few days of work without compensation could cost them their health care coverage or force them below the federal poverty line. Nebraskans should not have to choose between the health and financial stability of their families.

Without paid sick leave policy, workers often go to work sick or send their sick kids to school, which facilitates the spread of the illness to coworkers, clients, or classmates. Workers forced to come to work sick are often less productive while at work, and their illness or a child’s illness may be prolonged without time to get the medical care or rest that they need.

If all workers received paid sick days, 1.3 million emergency room visits could be avoided, saving an estimated $1.1 billion dollars of which at least $500 million is in savings for public health insurance programs. Paid sick days would allow workers to seek preventive care and treat illnesses early on, reducing overall health care costs. If all workers received paid sick days, there might also be cost savings in public assistance programs such as SNAP. Nearly a quarter of workers report having lost a job or being threatened with job loss after choosing to take leave from work in order to care for themselves or a family member during an illness. As a result, many are forced into relying on public assistance in order to make ends meet.

80% of low-wage workers do not have the option of earning paid sick leave and a disproportionate number of these low-wage workers are women. In fact, women make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers and 60% of minimum wage earners who work full time.

However, paid sick time is not just a women’s issue. Despite similar rankings of the importance of balancing work and family from both men and women, men are significantly less likely to take leave. Possible reasons include fear of losing a promotion opportunity or wage-cuts. In fact, slightly fewer men (60%) have access to paid sick leave than women (62%), according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Offering paid sick time to fathers would help them achieve their goals of better balancing their responsibilities to their families and their employer.

A bill introduced in the legislature by Senator Jeremy Nordquist, LB 493, would allow workers one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours that they work up to a maximum of 40 hours in one calendar year. Sick and safe time may be used to care for one’s own mental or physical health conditions as well as a family member’s. Passing this bill would be an important step in ensuring the economic stability of all Nebraskan families with additional benefits to both businesses and the economy.

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