Who has paid sick time?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78 percent of the private sector workforce has paid sick time. This means that almost 1 in 4 workers—22 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 39 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 (87 percent).3
Access also varies substantially by industry. For example, in 2023, only half of leisure and hospitality workers had paid sick time.4 Similarly, less than half of food service and accommodation workers (48 percent) had 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 2023, 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 bill has been reintroduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)11 in the 118th Congress.
Fifteen 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 Minnesota,20 New Jersey,21 New Mexico,22 New York,23 Oregon,24 Rhode Island,25 Vermont,26 and Washington state.27 In addition, many cities and counties have passed their own paid sick time laws.28
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 treatment and preventive care. This can include addressing 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.29
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 typically called “safe time.”30
Many paid sick time laws also allow this time to be used when an employee’s workplace or child’s school or child care facility is closed due to a declared public health emergency.31 A few paid sick time laws allow this time to be used for bereavement.32
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.33 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.34 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.35
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.36
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.37