Women’s group: 45 percent of Alabama workers get no paid sick days

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The National Partnership for Women & Families has published a new fact sheet that examines the state of sick leave policy on Alabama’s workforce. The study shows workers in the state have slightly less access to paid days off when they are or their children are sick, in keeping with a troublesome national fact of life for workers.

“In Alabama, an estimated 671,099 private sector workers, or 44.6 percent of the workforce, cannot earn a single paid sick day to use to recover from common illnesses or seek medical care,” reads the report, released Wednesday. “Nationwide, more than 43 million private sector workers – nearly 40 percent of the workforce – cannot earn paid sick time.”

“When workers do not have access to paid sick days, the consequences can be significant. For a typical family in the United States without paid sick days, for example, 3.5 days lost to illness are equivalent to the family’s entire monthly grocery budget,” the studied continued.

Among the study’s findings:

  • More than 145,000 people in Alabama work in restaurants – an industry in which, nationally, 90 percent of workers cannot earn paid sick days;
  • Overall, 35.6 percent of Alabama jobs are considered low wage, and few low-wage jobs allow workers to earn paid sick days; and
  • More than 700,000 children in Alabama live in families in which all parents work, but parents with paid sick days often cannot use them to care for children.

The study also says sick-leave policies adverse to workers both in Alabama and nationally disproportionately affect minority populations. The state is home to some 960,000 African-American workers, whose rate of access to paid sick days is even lower than the statewide 45 percent.

Moreover, the Partnership says, paid sick days are good for industry as well as workers.

“Employee turnover is expensive – on average, one fifth of an employee’s annual salary,” the report said. “Paid sick days result in reduced turnover,18 which leads to reduced hiring and training costs for businesses.”

They also help reduce unnecessary health care costs, which lowers cost pressure on taxpayers and policyholders.

“Universal access to paid sick days would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million emergency room visits each year, saving $1.1 billion annually in costs to individuals, private insurers and public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.”

The National Partnership entitled their release containing the new findings “What Does It Mean When Nearly 45 Percent of Alabama’s Workers Cannot Earn a Single Paid Sick Day?”

Debra Ness, the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan advocacy group’s president, was quick to fill in the blanks.

“Our nation’s failure to establish a paid sick days standard is harming people in Alabama and across the country,” Ness said.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that so many hardworking people and their families risk grave financial hardship if they get the flu, strep throat or another common illness because they cannot earn basic paid sick days, even after years at their jobs. Lawmakers at all levels need to look closely at what is at stake and take action.”

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