Paid Sick Leave’s Payoff
Perhaps paid sick days have never been more valuable than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet even before COVID-19, seventeen states and the District of Columbia began passing legislative mandates that employers provide employees with paid sick leave (“PSL”) days. Most of this legislation requires employers to provide up to one week of PSL for both full- and part-time employees, which they can utilize with few notice or documentation requirements. Using the 2017–2018 American Time Use Survey Leave and Job Flexibilities Module, I first demonstrate that workers in PSL states are less likely to go to work sick, which may, in turn, reduce concerns about the spread of infectious disease in the workplace. Next, I present evidence from the 2020–2021 Current Population Survey that workers in PSL states have enjoyed higher employment rates and labor market participation rates during the pandemic than have similarly situated workers in non-PSL states. By enabling employees to take short-term leave when either they or an immediate family member fall ill—without risk of job or income loss—PSL legislation may help stabilize employment and keep workers attached to the labor market.
Jennifer Bennett Shinall