Low Wage, Hispanic, and Immigrant Workers among the Least Likely to Have Paid Sick Days

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New analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that access to paid sick days is unequally distributed across the U.S. population, with substantial differences by race and ethnicity, occupation, earnings levels, and work schedules. The study, using new data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), also reveals differences by sexual orientation, especially for men. IWPR found that only 56 percent of private sector workers had access to paid sick days, compared with 84 percent of public sector workers.

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Washington, DC—New analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that access to paid sick days is unequally distributed across the U.S. population, with substantial differences by race and ethnicity, occupation, earnings levels, and work schedules. The study, using new data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), also reveals differences by sexual orientation, especially for men. IWPR found that only 56 percent of private sector workers had access to paid sick days, compared with 84 percent of public sector workers.

“These data indicate that workers least able to lose pay when they are sick are also the least likely to benefit from employer-provided paid sick days,” said IWPR Study Director Jeff Hayes, Ph.D.

The new data also reveal disparities in access by:

  • --Company size: Access rates increase as the size of the company increases. Just 38 percent of companies with less than 9 employees provide paid sick days to their workers, whereas 83 percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees provide sick days.
  • --Occupation: Nearly 4 in 5 employees (79 percent) in Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations, and 3 in 4 workers in Personal Care and Service occupations lack access to a single paid sick day.
  • --Race/Ethnicity: More than half  (51 percent) of Hispanic workers in the United States lack access to paid sick days, compared with 64 percent of white workers, 62 percent of black workers, and 66 percent of Asian workers.
  • --Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual men report less access to paid sick days (60 percent) compared with gay or bisexual men (66 percent). Heterosexual women and lesbian or bisexual women, however, report relatively similar access rates (62 and 63 percent, respectively).

In addition, a new brief, produced by IWPR and CLASP, finds that immigrant workers have significantly less access to paid sick days than their U.S.-born counterparts. Less than half of immigrant workers earning between $15,000 and $34,999 per year have access to paid sick days—27 percent fewer than U.S. born workers in the same earnings bracket.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

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