With federal inaction, states continue to step up in providing paid sick days to their workers and families

While inaction on paid sick days at the national level continues to erode families’ economic security, cities and states are stepping up for working people and serving as models for jurisdictions throughout the country. Rhode Island is the latest example—legislators there have been working to pass legislation to guarantee a minimum amount of paid time for eligible workers to care for themselves or their family when they are sick or need medical care. While there are important differences in the proposals, both the Rhode Island House and Senate have passed measures which would significantly expand the ability for workers there to earn paid sick time. If the governor signs a bill, it will be a big win for working people and their families in Rhode Island, as the state will join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont in guaranteeing that working people have the ability to earn paid sick time.

In a paper released earlier this week, Jessica Schieder and I highlighted some of the costs to workers and their families when they are not given the opportunity to earn paid sick time. By examining estimated spending on essential items for families who lack paid sick days today, we quantified how this lack threatens the economic security of low- and moderate-income families.

Not having paid sick days means millions of workers feel forced to go to work when they are sick, where they are less productive and more prone to mistakes. The ability to earn paid sick days lets working people cover their expenses and pay their monthly bills, even in the event of illness. This income security allows workers to rest, get the health care they need, and fully recover from an illness before returning to work.

Meaningful paid sick leave legislation is incredibly important for low-wage workers and their families, the vast majority of whom do not currently have access to paid sick time. Success at the state level appears to be driving up the nationwide rate of coverage for the lowest wage workers, but the problem calls for a national solution—providing paid sick days for workers across the country, regardless of their wage level, their hours, or the state they live in.