Earned sick time good for families, businesses

1 in 3 Mass. workers lack benefit

Think about the people you know who don’t have earned sick time. Maybe it’s your sister. Maybe it’s your neighbor. Maybe it’s the man who bags groceries for you every week, or the woman who keeps your office building clean.

Nearly 1 million Massachusetts workers cannot take a single day of paid sick time to visit the doctor, take care of a sick child, or help an elderly parent. We can guarantee access to earned sick time for all workers by voting “yes” on Question 4 in November.
Read the response from Bill Vernon of the “No on 4” Committee.
A recent Mass Budget and Policy Center study found that 1 in 3 workers in the Bay State and more than half of workers earning less than $35,000 a year do not have sick leave. This issue affects people in communities across the state, but it is particularly a problem in Gateway Cities. It’s not a big surprise that roughly 35 percent of workers in Gateway Cities such as Brockton, Chicopee, Holyoke, Salem, Taunton, Westfield, and Worcester have no paid sick time. Likewise, about 40 percent of workers who live in Barnstable, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Leominster, Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Malden, New Bedford, Methuen, Pittsfield, and Springfield have no paid sick benefit.

The rate is even higher in Chelsea and Revere, as well as in some Boston neighborhoods. More than 35 percent of workers in smaller towns like Dighton, Mansfield, and Westport go without paid sick time, too.

Employees without access to sick time are often left having to choose between taking care of a child or the job that puts food on the table. Having earned sick time would allow them to take time to take care of their health or the health of a family member without fear of losing a job or a day’s pay.

Any teacher or school nurse can tell you about kids who are sent to school sick because their parent has to go to work. Some students even refuse to go to the nurse’s office because they know a parent will be called to pick them up, and the parent can’t leave work without risking his or her job. Saying “yes” to Question 4 will ensure that no child or parent faces that situation.

Many successful employers already provide earned sick time, and these businesses will not have to make any changes to their policies. Voting “yes” on Question 4 would set a minimum standard that all employers must meet, and prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who take time off due to illness. It provides a basic level of dignity for all workers.

Workers at companies with 10 or fewer employees would earn up to 40 hours per calendar year of unpaid sick time to visit the doctor or take care of a sick family member. Employees at larger companies, with 11 or more workers, would earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year.

In communities that already require employers to grant earned sick time, like San Francisco and Washington, DC, job growth has been higher than in neighboring communities without the policy. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that existing earned sick time laws in Connecticut, San Francisco, and Seattle keep families financially secure and make business and economic sense.

Massachusetts businesses such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cape Air, and Boyd’s Direct support earned sick time because they know it makes workers healthier, more productive, and more loyal to their employers. Businesses who implement earned sick time find that it reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, and helps their bottom line.

Meet the Author
Providing mandatory earned sick leave is good for families, and it’s good for businesses. It keeps money in the pockets of families, who can then spend on haircuts, new clothes for their kids, or lunch at a local diner, which is critical to boosting our local economies, especially in struggling parts of the state.

Deb Fastino is executive director of the Coalition for Social Justice, the lead organization of the “Yes on Question 4” campaign.