Over 60% of low wage workers still don’t have access to paid sick days on the job

The pandemic highlighted vast inequalities in the United States, especially in the U.S. labor market. Striking disparities were magnified in who could work from home and who had to go into work in person, who was able to keep their job and who suffered from lost work hours or employment altogether, who had health insurance to seek care when they needed it and who didn’t, and who had the ability to take paid sick days to stay home when sick, get vaccinated, or take care of loved ones and who did not. Yesterday, the latest data on employer benefits was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Stark inequalities persist in access to workplace benefits. One that hits hard is the inability of over 60% of the lowest-wage workers in the U.S. to be able to earn paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.  

Figure A  below shows access to paid sick days is vastly unequal: workers at the bottom are disproportionately denied this important security. The highest wage workers (top 10%) are two and a half times as likely to have access to paid sick leave as the lowest paid workers (bottom 10%). Whereas 96% of the highest wage workers had access to paid sick days, only 38% of the lowest paid workers are able to earn paid sick days. 

High-wage workers have paid sick days; most low-wage workers do not: Share of private-sector workers with access to paid sick days, by wage group, 2022

Category Share of workers who have access to paid sick days
Bottom 25% 55%
Second 25% 81%
Third 25% 86%
Top 25% 94%
Bottom 10% 38%
Top 10% 96%


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