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Jodie Levin-Epstein's picture

Although millions of workers nationwide are struggling with reduced benefits and rising health care costs, a recent piece in USA Today revealed those at the top continue to receive top-notch health perks. At one company, executives receive $10,000 per illness for expenses not covered under the company’s standard plan. Executives and spouses at another company receive yearly Mayo Clinic exams on top of up to $50,000 for expenses.

While there’s nothing new about CEOs having more perks than the rank and file, the article exposes the extent to which those at the top continue to get better health insurance coverage under the guise of creating healthy work cultures.

Executive health care perks are a symptom of the much larger problem of inequity in the way companies treat lower-wage workers. Less well known is that some firms approach paid sick time with a similar policy. They offer paid sick time to those with higher earnings and deny it to workers with lower earnings. In fact, lower-wage earners are 2.5 times less likely to have paid sick days than higher earners. The result is a difficult choice for these workers. Taking a day off to tackle a health problem can mean losing a day’s wages, and sometimes even a job.

Companies need lower-wage workers to provide the labor that helps their bottom lines. There is something perverse in the psychology of “taking care of those at the top” and not providing basic benefits to those who need the financial help most.

To be sure, there are employers who do the right thing.  But we need more employers to recognize that healthy companies depend on all workers being healthy, not just executives.  And, we need laws that ensure all workers can take care of illness. That’s healthy.

Learn more about CLASP’s work to expand paid sick days to all employees.

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