Earned Paid Sick Time

A state economyworks best for everyone when working people can balance work, family,and life’s challenges. At some point in their lives, allworkers experience a personal health issue or family illness. Yet inMassachusetts, as in most states, if you are sick and have to misswork, not only can you miss a day’s worth of pay, but you canalso get fired. In order to better address these issues, a growingnumber of cities and one state have passed earned paid sick time laws.Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that about thisimportant issue.

Whatis Earned Paid Sick Time (EPST)?

Earned paid sick time allows workers to earn paid time off in order toaddress a health issue. Eligible workers commonly use sick time to takecare of themselves when they are too sick to work, to see a doctor, orto care for a sick family member.

EPST laws vary across the country. Specifically, they differ in howquickly sick time is available, the circumstances in which they can beused, how many days/hours can be earned, and how much notice isrequired 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 workersin Massachusetts do not have access to earned paid sick time. Thoselacking 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 only11 percent of those who earn above $65,000 do not have earned paid sicktime (as shown in the graph below).


More than half of service industry workers do not have access to asingle earned paid sick day. Workers in white-collar jobs, such ascomputer, engineering, and science occupations, generally have higherlevels of education, higher earnings, and more workplace protectionslike EPST.


Do EPST laws exist elsewhere?

In the absence of a federal requirement, eight cities and one statehave passed their own EPST laws in recent years. San Francisco,Washington D.C., and Seattle were among the first U.S. cities to codifyEPST into law. Most recently in 2014, Portland, OR, Newark, NJ, JerseyCity, New York City, and San Diego passed paid sick time laws.Additionally, Connecticut was the first state to enact a statewide paidsick day law in 2011. Although these laws increase access to workplaceflexibility for many workers, coverage is not universal.

What is EPST’s relationship with the Family and Medical LeaveAct (FMLA)?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that providesimportant yet limited protections.

It grants unpaid job protection to eligible workers to deal withserious health conditions or with the birth, adoption, or foster careof a child. It requires that employees must work close to fulltime andfor large employers (companies with 50 or more workers). As a result ofthese limitations, about 40 percent of the workforce is not covered bythe FMLA.

These protections contrast with EPST’s more expansiveprotections in a few ways. First, EPST is paid, whereas the FMLA doesnot require employers to provide paid leave. Second, EPST is used torecover from a short-term illness, such as the flu, or to care for animmediate family member, whereas the FMLA is designed for longer-termmedical issues. Third, FMLA only covers larger employers.


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