Are You Entitled to Paid Sick Days?

Federal Policy on Paid Sick Days

Crowds Line Up For H1N1 Flu Vaccinations
Crowds Line Up For H1N1 Flu Vaccinations. George Frey/Getty Images

Feeling achy? Go ahead. Take a couple of paid sick days.

If you get sick with the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges you to stay home and avoid contact with other people. Snuggle up with a good book. Pop in a movie. Whatever.

Just don't go to work.

Taking paid sick days is a great suggestion - if, that is, you work for the U.S. government, which provides 13 paid sick days to employees a year, or are one of the fortunate private-sector workers whose employers do so.

Otherwise, you're out of luck. There is no federal law requiring private companies to offer paid sick days.

Paid Sick Days Mandated in Many Countries

The United States is among the few countries that do not provide paid sick days, according to the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University.

Paid sick days for short-term and long-term illnesses are provided for in at least 145 countries, 127 of which provide a week or more every year, McGill University found.

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family.

Paid Sick Days Offered by Most Private U.S. Employers

Nearly two out of every three private-sector workers, or 62%, get paid sick days, according to a 2010 estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But most of them are among the highest-paid workers in the nation.

About 38%, or some 40 million American workers, get no paid sick days.

The availability of paid sick days rises with income, according to the BLS. Eighty-three percent of workers in the top 10th percentile had access to paid sick leave, compared to just 23% of the lowest paid workers in 2008.

In addition, 54% of the highest paid workers were able to access paid leave for personal reasons compared to 17% of the lowest paid workers.

Attempt to Mandate Paid Sick Days in U.S.

The Healthy Families Act of 2009 would have forced companies that don't provide the benefit to begin offering tens of millions of private-sector workers with paid sick days.

Under the Healthy Families Act, all U.S. employers with more than 15 employees would have been required to allow their workers to earn at least one hour of paid sick time off for every 30 hours worked, up to seven days a year.

Employees would have been allowed to use their sick leave to care for themselves and their families, receive preventive or diagnostic treatment, or seek help if they are victims of domestic violence.

The bill did not pass and died when the 111th Congress adjourned after 2010.


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Murse, Tom. "Are You Entitled to Paid Sick Days?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2016, Murse, Tom. (2016, February 16). Are You Entitled to Paid Sick Days? Retrieved from Murse, Tom. "Are You Entitled to Paid Sick Days?" ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).