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REPORT: Majority of Low-Wage Workers Lack Paid Sick Leave

August 6, 2015

The majority of low-wage workers in the private sector do not have paid sick leave, according to new data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The data, published in a July 24 news release (pdf), shows that paid sick leave is offered to just 31 percent of workers who earn $11.64/hour or less, placing them in the bottom 25th percentile of private-sector wage-earners.

The median hourly wages for personal care aides and home health aides — $9.83 and $10.28, respectively — place them firmly in the bottom 25th percentile, and therefore unlikely to have access to paid sick leave.

Meanwhile, the BLS data shows that workers in the bottom 10 percent — earning $9/hour or less — are even less likely to get paid time off for being sick. Private-sector employers offer paid sick leave to less than one out of four (22 percent) wage-earners in the bottom 10th percentile.

“This means that those most likely to suffer from a missed day of wages are also those least likely to be afforded paid time off,” U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote in a July 27 blog post.

For low-wage workers, Perez adds, the lack of paid sick leave means that “illness [is] not merely inconvenient but economically catastrophic.”

Only four states — Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and, most recently, Oregon — have enacted laws or passed ballot initiatives requiring all employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers.

Overall, 61 percent of workers in the private sector get paid sick leave, the BLS found.

Additionally, the BLS data shows that a majority of workers in the bottom 25th percentile of wages do not have access to employer-sponsored health coverage, retirement benefits, or life insurance.

“Direct-care workers are working sick and injured, potentially putting their clients — who are often medically compromised themselves — at risk,” wrote PHI Policy Research Director Abby Marquand in a recent commentary. “This is an untenable situation and one policymakers need to address.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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