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Paid sick days are good for public health

It's what moms have known for centuries--when people are sick, they need to stay home and get well. However, too many Americans without paid sick days can not afford to take a day without pay when illness strikes. As a result, millions of Americans go out into the workforce each day, spreading illness. A minimum standard of paid sick days for all American workers would eliminate the need to choose between one's health (or the health of a sick child or relative) and a day of pay. Read on to find out more about how paid sick days contribute to public health:

Did you know?

  • When employees come to work sick, they risk infecting others

    Nearly half (48%) of private-sector workers—57 million people—are not able to take a paid sick day when they are ill (1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that workers stay home from work when sick with common illnesses like the flu (2). When workers don't have access to paid sick days, they don't have an option to stay home when they need to get healthy. As a result, illness spreads.

  • Jobs that require the most contact with the public are less likely to offer sick days

    More than three in four food service and hotel workers (78%) don’t have a single paid sick day. Workers in child care centers, retail and nursing homes also overwhelmingly lack paid sick days (3).

  • When sick kids stay home from school and daycare, they don't infect other kids

    Often, schools and child care centers require sick children to stay home to prevent the spread of illness. The CDC recommends keeping children home from school for 24 hours after their fevers subside to prevent the spread of illnesses (4). Working parents with paid time off are five times more likely to stay home to care for their sick children than those without paid time off (5). Without paid sick days, parents are less likely to be able to care for sick kids.

Want more facts? Knowledge is power! Click here to return to the "Learn More" page.


1. Vicky Lovell, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, No Time to Be Sick.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Taking Care of Yourself: What to Do if You Get Sick with Flu,

3. Testimony of Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, 2007

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Flu,

5. J. Heymann, S. Toomey, and F. Furstenberg, “Working Parents: What Factors are Involved in Their Ability to Take Time Off From Work When Their Children are Sick?,” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 153 (August 1999