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Earned Sick Days

Fact Sheets: Women | Low-Income Workers | NJ Businesses | Health Impact | NJ Earned Sick Days Brochure

Earned Sick Days for All New Jersey Workers

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What are Earned Sick Days?

When workers need time to care for their own health needs and those of family, they should be provided job-protected paid time from work. It is just common sense. Currently, no federal law guarantees workers access to earned sick & safe days when they or their families are sick, or when they need to deal with medical, legal or relocation issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault. In New Jersey, thirteen cities and towns have approved municipal ordinances to guarantee workers in their jurisdiction the right to earn paid sick days.

Who is Affected?

Over a million workers in New Jersey do not earn a single paid sick day. Many are working in low-wage service jobs. Workers without earned sick days are often those who care for our children and the elderly. They prepare and serve food in our restaurants. Without job-protected earned sick days, they can’t afford to stay home, even if they are sick.

  • Nearly one quarter of US adults have been fired or threatened with job loss for taking time off to recover from an illness or caring for a dependent.[i] Losing a day’s wages -- or worse, a job -- undermines a family’s ability to contribute to the economy and forces many to rely on public programs to stay afloat.
  • 76% of food industry workers in New Jersey do not have earned sick days.[ii] The Centers for Disease Control found that more than half of all norovirus outbreaks can be traced back to sick food service workers.[iii]
  • 51% of New Jerseyans age 45 or older, either do not have paid sick leave or they are unable to use the leave to care for sick family members.[iv]
  • Of the four in ten New Jersey workers age 45 or older who report receiving paid sick leave, 75% say it is important to them that their employer provide paid sick leave.[v]

Why are Earned Sick Days Important?

When sick workers are able to stay home to take time to recover, the spread of illness slows and workplaces are both healthier and more productive. Workers also recover faster and can access medical care – allowing them to get back to work sooner and lowering health care costs. Earned sick days make it possible to be a good employee and a good parent or family caregiver. Earned sick days boost our families, our community and our economy.

  • Research shows that when parents are able to care for them at home, sick children get better sooner and reduce the risk of spreading the illness to their classmates.[vi]
  • And when working families have enough money in their pockets to cover the basics, the whole economy gains. Losing even a day’s wages – or worse, a job – undermines families’ ability to contribute to the economy and forces many to rely on public programs to keep their families afloat.
  • Earned sick days help to protect the public health. Workers without earned sick days are more likely to go to work sick, putting other’s health at risk.
    • Not having earned sick days is associated with an 18 percentage point increase in ill employees spreading diseases at work.[vii]  
    • During the H1N1 epidemic, 7 million people caught the virus from co-workers who came to the job while sick.[viii]
    • Parents with earned sick days are 20% less likely to send sick children to school and those without are five times more likely to seek emergency room care for their children.[ix]
  • For a low-income family without earned sick days, going 3.5 days without wages is equivalent to losing a month’s groceries.[x]
  • Businesses that provide earned sick days to workers to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member benefit from workers’ increased commitment and productivity, and lower turnover costs.[xi]

The Solution: Earned Sick Days for All New Jersey Workers

New Jersey Assembly Bill No. 1827, introduced by Assemblywoman Lampitt, and Senate Bill No. 2171 introduced by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, would guarantee New Jersey workers access to job protected paid time from work to care for their own health needs and for the health needs of the following family members: spouse, civil union partner, domestic partner, child, legal ward, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild and individuals whose relationship is the equivalent of family.

All workers (full-time, part-time, temporary, and undocumented workers) employed in New Jersey would be covered. Workers earn paid sick days based on hours worked. This guarantees that workers who work less than full-time will still be able to take time when they need it most.

Key components of the bill include:

  • Workers accrue 1 hour for every 30 worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours (5 days) in a calendar year.
  • Workers start to earn paid sick days as soon as they begin employment, with a 120 day waiting period before they are able to use the days. Workers can carry-over earned sick days from year to year, but employers will not be required to provide more than the required number of hours/days in any given year.
  • Businesses that have paid time off and/or vacation time policies that are provided in the same amounts and that can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as the earned sick days law, won’t have to change their policies.
  • Employers must provide employees with a notification of their rights under the law as well as post in the workplace.
  • Employers are not permitted to take retaliatory action or discriminate against an employee who requests or uses earned sick days.

Allowable uses of earned sick days include:

  • For an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for diagnosis or preventive medical care.
  • For an employee’s need to care for family members (see covered family members above) when they fall ill or are in need of diagnosis or preventative medical care.
  • To deal with medical, legal or relocation issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault, or to receive services from a designated domestic violence or victim services agency.
  • In the event a public official closes a place of business or place of care or school of a child, due to a public health emergency.
  • To attend a school-related conference, meeting, or other event request or required by a school, or to attend a meeting regarding care provided to the child in connection with the child’s health condition or disability.

[v] IBID

Click Here For Earned Sick Day Resources, Research and Reports.