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STUDY: Direct-Care Workers Unlikely to Have Paid Sick Leave

March 20, 2014

A new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) examines access to paid sick days across several categories. Its conclusions are a strong indication that most direct-care workers are unlikely to have access to a paid sick leave benefit.

The researchers’ findings show that personal care and service workers, which includes personal care aides, are among the occupations that are least likely to have a paid sick leave benefit. Less than one in three workers (31 percent) in these jobs has access to paid sick leave coverage. In 2012, 61 percent of all private sector workers age 18 and older had paid sick days.

The IWPR study also found that of workers who earn $19,999 or less, only 28 percent have access to paid sick days compared to 83 percent of workers who have annual incomes of $65,000 or more. Of all direct-care workers, the median annual income (pdf) is $17,000; the median income for personal care aides is even less at $14,000 annually.

Regarding race and ethnicity, the study found that people of color are less likely to have paid sick day coverage, compared to White non-Hispanic workers, of whom 64 percent get paid when they take days off due to illness or to care for a sick family member. The study found that only 47 percent of Hispanic workers and 62 percent of Black workers had paid sick leave. Among “other” people of color, 55 percent reported having paid sick leave. More than half of direct-care workers are of color and over a fifth are immigrants, according to a PHI analysis (pdf).

The IWPR researchers also examined access to paid sick days based on hours worked and found that of full-time workers (35 hours or more per week), 70 percent have access to paid sick days. Yet of workers who have part-time hours (20-34 hours per week), only 26 percent have access to paid sick days. Of all direct care workers, only 53 percent are employed full time, PHI reports (pdf).

Women (62 percent) were found to be slightly more likely to have a paid sick leave benefit compared to men (60 percent).

Paid sick days are beneficial to employers, workers, families, and communities, the fact sheet explains. It reports that there are both economic and public health benefits of paid sick leave coverage, including:

  • safer work environments,
  • improved work/life balance,
  • reduced spread of contagion, and
  • reduced health care costs.

Seven cities in the nation and Connecticut have paid sick leave laws, according to a ThinkProgress post.

“I think it’s important to have laws, because voluntary employer action is not getting us anywhere,” Claudia Williams, an IWPR researcher and co-author of the study, says in the post.

— by Deane Beebe

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