Researchers at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found 75% of survey respondents consider paid sick days a basic worker’s right, and 75% believe that employers should be required by law to provide paid sick days to workers. Eighty-six percent endorse a plan that would require a minimum of seven paid sick days per year, and 70% back a plan requiring a minimum of nine days.
In addition, the survey found 71%-77% of respondents favor plans to give part-time workers sick days proportional to their hours.
According to the survey report, people are sensitive to the burdens that smaller employers might face in complying with paid-sick-days legislation. Nearly half (47%) favor allowing those employing less than 15 employees to provide “some, but fewer, paid sick days than larger employers,” and 33% favor smaller employers providing the same number of paid sick days as larger employers.
Only 17% would want smaller employers exempted from providing any paid sick days, and respondents are divided about whether employers with PTO plans should be excused from offering separate paid sick days.
The survey results indicate about four out of every ten workers in the private sector receive no paid sick days and many of those with some coverage are either unable to use it to care for ill family members, qualify for only a small number of days, and/or receive PTO rather than separate paid sick days. About 23% of respondents have lost a job or been told they would lose a job for taking time off due to personal or family illness.
Lack of Paid Sick Days a Public Health Concern?
A lack of paid sick days leads to more workers going to work with a contagious illness, the survey shows. Thirty-seven percent of respondents with paid sick days said they have gone to work with a contagious illness such as the flu, compared to 55% of those without paid sick days.
Likewise, those without paid sick days are more likely to send a sick child to school or daycare. Among those with paid sick days, 14% have sent a sick child to school or daycare, while 24% of those without paid sick days have.
According to the survey report, the lack of paid sick days also drives up medical costs and overburdens medical facilities by leading more people to use hospital emergency rooms rather than seeing a doctor during working hours. Ten percent of those with paid sick days have sought care in a hospital emergency room because they “were unable to take off from work to get medical care during normal job hours,” while 20% of those without paid sick days had done so. Similarly, 7% of those without paid sick days took a family member to a hospital emergency room because they could not take off from work versus 18% of those without paid sick days.
These facts help to explain why 80% of respondents found the argument about paid-sick-days legislation being needed to protect public health to be convincing.
The survey report is here.