Today’s post about earned paid sick time was written by guest blogger Nicole Rodriguez, a policy analyst at MassBudget (the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center). Next week on Election Day, voters can weigh in on this issue by voting “Yes” or “No” on Ballot Question 4.
As National Work and Family Month draws to a close, we are reminded that many families are struggling to balance the demands of work and caregiving responsibilities.
Nearly all workers experience family illness, personal health issues, or the need to care for a sick child. Yet many workers lack access to earned paid sick time.
In Massachusetts about 1 in 3 workers don’t have access to earned paid sick time. And those least likely to have it are the lowest wage workers. This is particularly
The commonwealth’s low-income families face particular challenges in balancing work and family. In Massachusetts, the statewide child poverty rate remains stubbornly high and access to affordable child care is limited. On top of that, the state lacks the critical work protection policies of earned paid sick leave and paid family leave that enable families to thrive.
Several cities and states have recently passed earned paid sick time laws, and many more are considering these proposals in order to help working families balance work and family obligations. These laws support families in important ways:
- Allows families to meet basic needs. When workers have to take time off to care for themselves or family members, lost wages can become a critical shortfall in their budgets. For example, 3.5 days of lost pay is equivalent to an average low-income family’s monthly food budget.
- Increases long-term employment and earnings prospects. Workers who do not have access to earned paid sick time are at risk of losing their jobs when they need time off to care for themselves or their family members, which threatens their long-term economic stability.
- Prevents the spread of illness and benefits school performance. Without earned paid sick time, families are more likely to send sick children to school or child care settings. This endangers children’s health as well as the health of classmates, teachers, and caregivers. This can also harm children’s educational outcomes because they may remain ill longer. Also in some families, older kids are kept home from school to care for younger siblings when parents can’t take time off from work, which can affect older siblings’ school performance.
- Prevents unnecessary health care expenses. Parents who do not have earned paid sick time are more likely to seek medical treatment at an emergency room because they cannot take time off during normal business hours, when most doctors’ offices are open. Providing earned paid sick time could reduce emergency room visits and other medical expenses since it makes it easier for families to get primary and preventive care. Also, it can prevent the costs associated with delaying health services and letting illnesses go untreated as well as the costs of long-term illnesses.
Earned paid sick time is a common sense strategy that can help all families balance work and family.