Paid Leave

Due to a widespread lack of paid family and medical leave, workers have to make difficult choices between their careers and their caregiving responsibilities precisely when they need their paychecks the most, such as following the birth of a child or when they or a loved one falls ill. This lack of choice often leads workers to cut their leave short. It can also lead workers to forgo much-needed pay, leave the labor force altogether, or make poor-quality care arrangements for their children or other loved ones.

Our current lack of paid family leave requires workers to make impossible choices between work and family and hampers their economic security, and this burden clearly falls disproportionately on women. However, the solution to this problem is achievable: some individual companies have implemented their own family leave policies, almost all industrialized nations have a comprehensive national paid family leave program, and a small number of states have created successful family leave insurance programs. EARN groups are working to expand access to paid leave through all of these channels. In some cities and states, they are working on laws that would require employers to provide their employees with paid family leave. In others, they are helping to craft government insurance programs that would supplement wages during leave, and encouraging federal lawmakers to consider similar programs nationwide.


Valuing Families at Work: The Case for Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is critical for families for health care and economic reasons. Parents should not be forced to choose between caring for themselves or family members and their jobs. The lack of paid sick leave adds stress to families, exposes co-workers unnecessarily, and risks the spread of infectious diseases to children in schools and child care centers. As with other employee-provided benefits, such as health insurance and paid vacation, paid sick leave tends to be less available in lower-wage jobs.

Therefore, those who can least afford to lose any of their income are the most likely to have to choose between working and taking time to care for themselves or a child when they are sick. This intersection of low-wage work and the lack of benefits like paid sick leave helps keep the working poor from climbing out of their situation.

Guaranteeing all workers at least one week of paid sick leave would do much to help low-income working families and their children. In New Mexico, however, only half of private-sector workers have access to paid sick leave. This is the worst rate in the nation. New Mexico, with its high percentage of low-wage jobs and a correspondingly high rate of working families who are low-income, would have much to gain from enacting paid leave legislation.

Employee Experience with Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Leave

In September 2012, Seattle became the third U.S. city to implement a paid sick leave ordinance. By early 2015, more than 20 cities and four states had paid sick leave laws on the books. Seattle’s law requires employers with more than four employees (full-time equivalents) to provide paid sick and safe leave for the health needs of workers and their family members, and to deal with the consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Initial evaluations of Seattle’s law and experiences in other localities suggest that many workers are likely to remain unaware of their rights to sick days. Lower wage workers are the least likely to be offered paid leave voluntarily by their employers, and with little bargaining power, are often unable to assert their legal rights even if aware of them.

To gain additional insight into the extent to which lower wage workers in Seattle are aware of the sick leave law and have access to paid sick leave, the Economic Opportunity Institute conducted a survey in partnership with the YWCA Seattle|King|Snohomish in the spring of 2015. Altogether, 83 people who had worked in Seattle during the preceding year participated. The responses to this survey provide insight into how widely Seattle’s sick leave law is being followed, but are not statistically valid for all Seattle workers.

In 2014, Seattle took the additional step of adopting its first citywide minimum wage ordinance. With multiple labor standards in effect, the City of Seattle is in the process of building a more robust enforcement capacity and undertaking renewed outreach to vulnerable workers in partnership with community organizations.

Minnesota’s Workers Need Earned Sick and Safe Time

Hard-working Minnesotans should not lose wages or their jobs when they take time off to care for themselves or a sick family member, or deal with domestic abuse. But currently, 1.1 million Minnesotans, or 41 percent of the state’s workforce, face this situation because their jobs do not offer earned sick leave. These workers live all across the state, and in some counties, including Stearns and St. Louis, about half of all workers lack access to earned sick leave.

Expanding access to earned sick time would allow workers to care for themselves and their families when illness strikes. Families with access to paid sick leave also are able to make medical appointments at regular office hours instead of having to wait for after work hours when they may need to use more expensive emergency services.

Earned sick leave is good for workers and for our state’s economy by giving us a more productive and stable workforce.

Women and Economic Security in Mississippi: A Data Brief

  • May 27, 2015
  • Staff Report

Across the United States, many women face disparities in wages and employment while providing for their families and balancing child care and other family responsibilities. The growing number of families headed by single mothers exacerbates these issues. In Mississippi, the prevalence of poverty, births to unmarried parents, and the interaction between gender and race disparities makes these challenges particularly detrimental to the state’s families. Attention is being paid on a national level to the gender pay gap and paid family leave. This data brief focuses on the status of women and economic security in Mississippi to inform policy development that addresses the unique challenges of women and families in Mississippi.