Fact Sheet

The State of Paid Sick Time in the U.S. in 2023

This fact sheet provides an overview of paid sick time laws in the United States.

Part of a Series
Rally attendees holding signs with messages in favor of paid sick leave
A business owner speaks during a press conference in favor of earned paid sick leave for all Portland, Maine, workers at Portland City Hall, January 2019. (Getty/Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)

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Explore this guide to workplace leave laws in the United States.

Currently in the United States, federal law doesn’t guarantee workers a single paid day off, and many aren’t even entitled to unpaid time. The Center for American Progress presents a series of fact sheets explaining the three major types of laws that give workers rights in relation to workplace leave. This fact sheet addresses paid sick time laws.

Paid sick time refers to short-term time off that workers can use when they are sick, injured, or receiving medical treatment. This can include both serious conditions and everyday health needs such as the flu, a cold, or food poisoning. Workers also may be able to use their sick time to care for a loved one’s health needs.

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Who has paid sick time?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77 percent of the private sector workforce has paid sick time. This means that almost 1 in 4 workers—23 percent—do not have even a single paid sick day.1

While most employees have some paid sick time, too many do not. Those in the lowest 10 percent of earners are half as likely to have paid sick time as the private sector workforce as a whole; just 38 percent have any paid sick time.2 Part-time workers (51 percent) are also much less likely to have paid sick time than full-time workers (86 percent).3

Access also varies substantially by industry. For example, in 2022, only about half—53 percent—of leisure and hospitality workers had paid sick time.4 Similarly, only about half of food service and accommodation workers (52 percent) have paid sick time;5 this actually represents a substantial increase, given that as recently as 2015 only 25 percent of food service and accommodation workers had paid sick time.6 For comparison, in 2022, 96 percent of those in management, business, or financial occupations had paid sick time.7

What laws give workers the right to paid sick time?

No U.S. federal law generally guarantees the right to paid sick time.8 However, federal contractors are generally entitled to paid sick time under an executive order issued in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama.9 The Healthy Families Act is proposed federal legislation that would provide these rights to employees across the country.10 The Healthy Families Act has been introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in every Congress since 2004.11

Fourteen states, along with Washington, D.C.,12 have paid sick time laws: Arizona,13 California,14 Colorado,15 Connecticut,16 Maryland,17 Massachusetts,18 Michigan,19 New Jersey,20 New Mexico,21 New York,22 Oregon,23 Rhode Island,24 Vermont,25 and Washington state.26 In addition, many cities and counties have passed their own paid sick time laws.27

What needs do paid sick time laws cover?

Paid sick time laws give employees the right to use their covered time when they or a loved one are sick, injured, or receiving medical treatment, including mental health and preventive care. This can include both serious conditions, such as cancer or a car accident, and everyday health needs that do not necessarily require medical care, such as recovering from food poisoning or caring for a child with a cold.

Most paid sick time laws also cover additional, often nonmedical, needs when an employee or their loved one is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, such as seeking a restraining order or relocating to safety. This is often called “safe time.”

Many paid sick time laws also allow this time to be used when an employee’s workplace or child’s school or child care is closed due to a declared public health emergency.28

What rights do paid sick time laws provide?

Paid sick time laws provide the right to be paid while on covered leave. However, under some laws, employees of smaller employers are not entitled to be paid while on covered leave.

Paid sick time laws provide covered employees with the right to earn and use time off. They also protect employees against retaliation, meaning they cannot be punished (such as being fired, written up, or having their hours reduced) for using their time or otherwise exercising their rights under the law.29 These protections cover employees even if they are not entitled by law to be paid for their sick time.

Who do paid sick time laws cover?

In general, paid sick time laws cover employers regardless of size, though some laws allow smaller employers to provide less time or to provide time unpaid.30 These laws typically cover most private sector employees in a jurisdiction, including part-time workers; some also cover state or local government employees.

While employees generally begin earning sick time as soon as they are hired, most paid sick time laws only give employees the right to use sick time when they have been employed for a certain amount of time—most commonly, 90 days. This means that in practice, temporary or seasonal employees may have difficulty using sick time under these laws, even if they are formally covered.31

How much time can workers take under paid sick time laws?

Paid sick time laws operate on an accrual method, where employees earn time based on how much they work. Most commonly, employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Paid sick time laws generally allow employers to limit the amount of sick time that employees can earn or use in a year, typically to around 40 hours per year.32

How much money do workers receive through paid sick time laws?

Paid sick time laws require employers to pay employees for their sick time at their full regular rate of pay, often subject to special rules for tipped workers. While most paid sick time laws require that all covered employees be paid for their sick time, some laws allow smaller employers to provide unpaid sick time.33

Paid time off laws

The states of Maine34 and Nevada,35 along with a few localities, have passed laws giving covered employees the right to earn and use more general paid time off.36 This time can be used for an illness, injury, or to get medical care, as well as for other needs, such as a planned vacation or addressing a personal emergency. These laws are similar in some ways to paid sick time laws but may offer different or less strong protections.

Endnotes

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 7. Leave benefits by average wage category, private industry workers, March 2022,” in “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2022,” September 2022, Excel file (“private-average-wage-category-2022″) available at https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2022/home.htm.
  2. Ibid.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 7. Leave benefits by work and bargaining status, private industry workers, March 2022,” in “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2022,” September 2022, Excel file (“private-work-and-bargaining-status-2022″) available at https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2022/home.htm.
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 7. Leave benefits by industry group, private industry workers, March 2022,” in “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2022,” September 2022, Excel file (“private-industry-group-2022″) available at https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2022/home.htm.
  5. Ibid.
  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32: Leave benefits: Access, private industry workers, National Compensation Survey, March 2015,” available at https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/private/table32a.pdf (last accessed December 2022).
  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 7. Leave benefits by occupational group, private industry workers, March 2022, in “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2022,” September 2022, Excel file (“private-occupational-group-2022″) available at https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2022/home.htm.
  8. U.S. Department of Labor, “Sick Leave,” available at https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/sickleave#:~:text=Currently%2C%20there%20are%20no%20federal,does%20require%20unpaid%20sick%20leave (last accessed December 2022).
  9. Executive Office of the President, “Executive Order 13706: Establishing Sick Leave for Federal Contractors,” Federal Register 80 (175) (2015): 54697–54700, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/09/10/2015-22998/establishing-paid-sick-leave-for-federal-contractors.
  10. Healthy Families Act of 2021, S. 1195, 117th Cong., 1st sess. (April 15, 2021), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1195/text.
  11. Office of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, “DeLauro, Murray Reintroduce Healthy Families Act to Establish National Paid Sick Days Policy,” Press release, April 13, 2021, available at https://delauro.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/delauro-murray-reintroduce-healthy-families-act-establish-national-paid.
  12. Code of the District of Columbia, Subchapter III. Employee Sick Leave, available at https://code.dccouncil.gov/us/dc/council/code/titles/32/chapters/5/subchapters/III (last accessed December 2022).
  13. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-371 to §23-381, available at https://www.azleg.gov/arsDetail/?title=23 (last accessed December 2022).
  14. Cal. Labor Code §§ 245-249, available at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=LAB&division=2.&title=&part=1.&chapter=1.&article=1.5.&preview=true&site_id=312 (last accessed December 2022).
  15. Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, Colorado Rev. Stat. § 8-13.3-401 to 8-13.3-418, available at https://cdle.colorado.gov/sites/cdle/files/Colorado%20Healthy%20Families%20and%20Workplaces%20Act.pdf (last accessed December 2022).
  16. Connecticut General Statute §§ 31-57r to 31-57w, available at https://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/SickLeaveLaw.htm (last accessed December 2022).
  17. Maryland Healthy Working Families Act of 2017, 2017 Laws of Maryland, Ch. 1 (January 12, 2018), available at https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2017RS/chapters_noln/Ch_1_hb0001E.pdf.
  18. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 149, § 148C, available at https://www.mass.gov/doc/earned-sick-time-law-mgl-c-149-sec-148c/download (last accessed December 2022).
  19. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 408.961 to 408.974, available at https://casetext.com/statute/michigan-compiled-laws/chapter-408-labor/earned-sick-time-act (last accessed December 2022).
  20. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11D, available at https://www.nj.gov/labor/wageandhour/tools-resources/laws/wageandhourlaws.shtml#11D-1 (last accessed December 2022).
  21. Healthy Workplaces Act, New Mexico Laws 2021, ch. 131, § 1, available at https://www.dws.state.nm.us/Portals/0/DM/LaborRelations/Paid_Sick_Leave-NMSA_Chapter_50_Article_17.pdf?ver=2022-05-23-164309-943 (last accessed December 2022).
  22. N.Y. Labor Law § 196-B, available at https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/LAB/196-B (last accessed December 2022).
  23. Or. Rev. Stat. § 653.601-653.661, available at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/ors/ors653.html (last accessed December 2022).
  24. Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, Rhode Island General Laws Chapter 57, available at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE28/28-57/INDEX.HTM (last accessed December 2022).
  25. 21 Vermont Stat. Ann. §§ 481-487, available at https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/chapter/21/005 (last accessed December 2022).
  26. Wash. Rev. Code § 49.46.005- §49.46.920, available at https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=49.46 (last accessed December 2022).
  27. National Partnership for Women & Families, “Current Paid Sick Days Laws” (Washington: 2022), available at https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/paid-sick-days/current-paid-sick-days-laws.pdf.
  28. A Better Balance, “Public Health Closures and Paid Sick Time: What You Should Know,” March 6, 2020, available at https://www.abetterbalance.org/public-health-closures-and-paid-sick-time-what-you-should-know/.
  29. Molly Weston Williamson, “The Meaning of Leave: Understanding Workplace Leave Rights,” NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy 22 (1) (2019): 238–249, available at https://nyujlpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Williamson-The-Meaning-of-Leave-22-nyujlpp-197.pdf.
  30. A Better Balance, “Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States: Comparison Results,” available at https://www.abetterbalance.org/paid-sick-time-laws/?export (last accessed December 2022).
  31. Sherry Leiwant, Molly Weston Williamson, and Julie Kashen, “Constructing 21st Century Rights for a Changing Workforce: A Policy Brief Series, Brief 3: Paid Sick Time Laws & the Nonstandard Workforce” (New York: A Better Balance, 2019), pp. 9–10, available at https://www.abetterbalance.org/resources/report-constructing-21st-century-rights-for-a-changing-workforce-a-policy-brief-series-brief-3/.
  32. National Partnership for Women & Families, “Paid Sick Days Statutes” (Washington), pp. 8–9, 27–28, available at https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/paid-sick-days/paid-sick-days-statutes.pdf (last accessed December 2022).
  33. A Better Balance, “Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States: Comparison Results.”
  34. “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave,” Maine Public Law 2019 Ch. 156 (May 28, 2019), available at https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0110&item=4&snum=129.
  35. Nevada Rev. Stat. § 608.0197, available at https://www.leg.state.nv.us/nrs/nrs-608.html#NRS608Sec0197 (last accessed December 2022).
  36. A Better Balance, “Overview of Paid Time Off Laws in the United States,” available at https://www.abetterbalance.org/resources/overview-of-paid-time-off-laws-in-the-united-states/ (last accessed December 2022).

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This fact sheet series explains the three main kinds of laws that offer Americans rights when they need time off for health or caregiving needs. All workers deserve the full suite of rights described in this fact sheet series.

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