Paid leave isn’t only crucial for ensuring parents can care for their children – it’s also important for adult children, an increasing number of whom are caring for an elderly relative. But while having time to care for a loved one is important to nearly all of us, not everyone can do it without risking part of their paycheck or even their job.
For example, when parents can’t take a paid sick day, children are less likely to go to the doctor and more likely to go to school sick. But a 2003-2004 study indicated that only 36% of American children in families below 200% of the federal poverty line had a parent with sick leave, compared with 81% of those above 200% of the poverty line.
At the other end of the age spectrum, this 2008 study shows nearly 1 in 5 American workers provided unpaid care to an elderly person that year, and more than 4 in 10 provided care in the previous five years. But low-income families living from paycheck-to-paycheck are the least likely to have paid sick days available on the job. In the U.S., just 2 in 10 of the lowest paid workers had access to paid sick leave in 2010, compared to 84% of the highest earners.
Given their importance to so many people, it’s no surprise to see so many people “raise their hands” for a minimum paid sick days standard. A 2008 poll from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found:
- 94 percent of self-identified liberals and 81 percent of self-identified conservatives believed that paid sick day should be a basic workplace right.
- 86 percent of people surveyed said they favor a basic paid sick day policy.
- 77 percent of respondents believed that paid sick days were very important.
- 63 percent of workers who did not have access to paid sick leave said they were concerned about not having paid sick days.
- 46 percent of respondents said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports paid sick days.