A state economy
works best for everyone when working people can balance work, family,
and life’s challenges. At some point in their lives, all
workers experience a personal health issue or family illness. Yet in
Massachusetts, as in most states, if you are sick and have to miss
work, not only can you miss a day’s worth of pay, but you can
also get fired. In order to better address these issues, a growing
number of cities and one state have passed earned paid sick time laws.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that about this
is Earned Paid Sick Time (EPST)?
Earned paid sick time allows workers to earn paid time off in order to
address a health issue. Eligible workers commonly use sick time to take
care of themselves when they are too sick to work, to see a doctor, or
to care for a sick family member.
EPST laws vary across the country. Specifically, they differ in how
quickly sick time is available, the circumstances in which they can be
used, how many days/hours can be earned, and how much notice is
required in order to use earned sick time.
Who does and does not get EPST now?
Since it is not required by law in Massachusetts, about 1 in 3 workers
in Massachusetts do not have access to earned paid sick time. Those
lacking coverage are predominantly in low-wage jobs.
The less one earns,
the less likely a worker will have EPST. In fact,
over half of the lowest wage earners do not have access, whereas only
11 percent of those who earn above $65,000 do not have earned paid sick
time (as shown in the graph below).
More than half of service industry workers do not have access to a
single earned paid sick day. Workers in white-collar jobs, such as
computer, engineering, and science occupations, generally have higher
levels of education, higher earnings, and more workplace protections
Do EPST laws exist elsewhere?
In the absence of a federal requirement, eight cities and one state
have passed their own EPST laws in recent years. San Francisco,
Washington D.C., and Seattle were among the first U.S. cities to codify
EPST into law. Most recently in 2014, Portland, OR, Newark, NJ, Jersey
City, New York City, and San Diego passed paid sick time laws.
Additionally, Connecticut was the first state to enact a statewide paid
sick day law in 2011. Although these laws increase access to workplace
flexibility for many workers, coverage is not universal.
What is EPST’s relationship with the Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides
important yet limited protections.
It grants unpaid job protection to eligible workers to deal with
serious health conditions or with the birth, adoption, or foster care
of a child. It requires that employees must work close to fulltime and
for large employers (companies with 50 or more workers). As a result of
these limitations, about 40 percent of the workforce is not covered by
These protections contrast with EPST’s more expansive
protections in a few ways. First, EPST is paid, whereas the FMLA does
not require employers to provide paid leave. Second, EPST is used to
recover from a short-term illness, such as the flu, or to care for an
immediate family member, whereas the FMLA is designed for longer-term
medical issues. Third, FMLA only covers larger employers.