Paid Sick Days Legislation has Overwhelming Support, Polling Shows

86% of the public favors legislation that would mandate seven paid sick days per year for all employers, according to study sponsored by the Public Welfare Fund in collaboration with the National Partnership of Women and Families (full results here).  Even when the public is asked about mandating nine paid sick days per year, 71% still support the proposed legislation.  The study found that paid sick days legislation enjoys deep public support across all demographics and political leanings, including large majorities of Republicans as well as Democrats.

In response to the statement, “Paid sick days is a basic worker right, just like being paid a decent wage,” not only did 75% of public agree, but on a scale of 1 to 10 signifying agreement, 43% rated the statement a 10 and 64% agreed strongly (rating it an 8 or higher). 

The issue strongly colors how voters view elected officials, with 47% saying they would favor a candidate who supports paid sick days, while only 14% said they would not support that candidate. 

Job Losses Suffered Due to Need for Sick Days Drives Opinion:  Driving the poll numbers is the reality that too many workers have lost a job or been threatened with losing a job because they needed to take a sick day for themselves or to care for a family member.  One out of every six people (16%) has lost their job for missing work due to illness, and one in four (25%) has been told they would either lose their job or be suspended or punished.  And while 64% of workers are “eligible” for paid sick leave, the real picture is much more dire:

  • Less than half of the workforce (47%) can take a paid sick day to care for a sick child or family member, meaning most parents either have to risk their job to care for their children or send them to school sick.
  • Most workers (58%) whose employers offer only generic “paid time off” get a total of 10 days or less per year to cover vacation, personal, and sick leave.
  • 55% of people without paid sick days have had to go to work sick, compared to 37% of workers who can take a paid sick day.
  • 24% of those without paid sick days have had to send a sick child to school because they couldn't get the day off, while only 14% of those with paid sick days had to do so.

Public Does Not Believe Paid Sick Days Hurts Business Bottom Line: While paid sick days legislation has faced vigorous opposition from some in the business community, in most of the 23 states where it has been introduced, the public overwhelmingly rejects the typical arguments that paid sick days will harm jobs or individual businesses. The research indicates that their messages are not persuasive to voters:

  • 54% of those polled find "very convincing" the argument that "Requiring paid sick days doesn't hurt employers' bottom line" because paid sick days increases worker productivity.
  • By contrast, only 26% of those polled found the opposition argument "very convincing" that "Given the economic downturn we are now in, businesses can't afford to add new benefits like paid sick leave."

In fact, while almost all of the arguments in favor of paid sick days were viewed by majorities as "very convincing," no arguments by opponents were considered "very convincing" and only four of seven opposing arguments were seen as even "somewhat convincing" by more than half of those surveyed.

Reinforcing the polling numbers is the reality that where paid sick days have actually been implemented, such as the City of San Francisco, even original opponents of the policy, are now applauding its success.  In a recent Business Week article, the such as the Golden Gate Restaurant Association stated that paid sick days has been “the best public policy for the least cost" since the policy was enacted.

Public Welfare Fund - Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences