It is time for earned sick leave in Michigan

pdficonJune 2016
Senior Policy Analyst, Peter Ruark

Michigan should enact an earned sick leave law. This would help low-paid workers keep their jobs, increase productivity and reduce employee turnover, and protect the health of other employees and the public.

Many middle- and upper-income workers have the ability to take time off for sickness or family needs. But for many low-paid workers in Michigan, becoming sick can cause loss of money or even a job. It can put a worker in the difficult position of having to decide whether to stay home and lose wages, or to go to work and risk becoming sicker, work less productively and expose coworkers (and in many cases the public) to illness. Parents may feel pressure to forgo needed doctor checkups and medical care for themselves or their children because they cannot afford to lose the wages due to absence from work. They may even send their child to school sick because they cannot afford to stay home to take care of them.

An earned sick leave law in Michigan would require most employers to bank sick time for their workers based on the number of hours they have worked. Several cities and states have already passed sick leave laws and it is time for Michigan to do the same.

Its time for earned sick leave in michiganWho Would Benefit From an Earned Sick Leave Law?

More than 1.7 million (44%) Michigan workers cannot take time off with pay when they or one of their children are ill.1 This is true for 55% of Michigan’s Hispanic workers, 46% of African-American workers, 67% of workers in service occupations and 78% of workers who work less than 35 hours per week.2 (See appendix for more figures on earned sick leave by demographic.)

Missing work due to sickness causes not only a loss of wages for workers without sick leave, but can also lead to a loss of employment. Working mothers are especially at risk. In a 2013 survey commissioned by Oxfam America, 1 out of 7 low-wage workers and 1 out of 5 low-wage mothers reported losing a job in the past four years because they were sick or needed to care for a family member.3 Such job instability and its resulting stress can harm the social and intellectual development of children who already are at risk due to poverty.4

Workers without earned sick leave have reported working while in immense pain, delaying needed treatment, leaving sick children alone at home or in the hospital, spreading germs in the workplace and among the public, and receiving threats of retaliation from their employers for caring for a sick family member rather than going in to work.5 The fact that so many workers in the service industries do not get earned sick days indicates that an earned sick leave law will protect public health in addition to family well-being.

Its time for earned sick leave in michiganWould an Earned Sick Leave Law be Good for Michigan Businesses?

A study of Connecticut’s earned sick leave law shows that while businesses were concerned about a negative impact, for the most part the law imposed minimal burdens.6 Employers indicated that most employees used fewer sick days than available and appeared to save up their sick days for when they were really needed; only two-thirds of workers had used the sick days available to them and workers took an average of four days per year.7 The study also found that only 10% of employers reported increased payroll costs of 3% or more, and that administrative costs of tracking earned sick leave were minimal.8 Although business groups in Connecticut had initially strongly opposed the legislation, 40% of employers were very supportive of it 18 months after the law took effect and 37% were somewhat supportive.9 These figures suggest that although business groups in Michigan oppose enactment of a mandatory earned sick leave law, the effects of such a law would be far less dire (and more beneficial to the state overall) than the warnings of these opponents would suggest.

Michigan Should Enact an Earned Sick Leave Law

The United States is 1 of only 3 out of 22 high-income countries that do not require employers to provide earned sick leave that would cover a five day illness. Most of the countries guarantee at least five days of sick leave per year, while a few have social insurance programs to cover both short-term and long-term leave.10 In the absence of movement by Congress to pass earned sick leave bills that have been introduced, and because Michigan now has a preemption law prohibiting localities from enacting earned sick leave on their own, Michigan should establish earned sick leave statewide.11

Its time for earned sick leave in michiganFive states and Washington, DC have sick leave laws. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to enact such a law, and California and Massachusetts followed suit with laws that took effect in July 2015. Oregon’s law took effect in January 2016 and Vermont’s law will begin in January 2017.12 Massachusetts’ law was enacted through a ballot initiative, while earned sick leave laws in the other states and Washington, DC were enacted through legislation.13

In Michigan, both legislative chambers have bills pending that would require all employers to provide earned sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year for employees of a small business (ten employees or less) and up to 70 hours annually for all other workers. The bills have strong public support: A recent poll shows 86% of Michigan voters agree that every worker should be able to earn sick days in order to take time off without losing pay, and 83% would be supportive of the Legislature passing a bill that would allow workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Michigan currently has a preemption law that prohibits localities from enacting their own earned leave laws, underscoring the need to do this on the statewide level. Our state ought to follow the initiative of the five states and Washington, DC that have already passed such laws, and do what is right for Michigan workers and their families, businesses and the public.



  1. Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of the 2012-2014 National Health Interview Survey and the 2014 American Community Survey.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Oxfam America, Hard Work, Hard Lives: Survey Exposes Harsh Reality Faced by Low-Wage Workers in the US, 2013, as referenced in Ben-Ishai, Liz, Access to Paid Leave: An Overlooked Aspect of Economic & Social Inequality, Center for Law and Social Policy, April 14, 2014. (
  4. For more on this topic, see Babcock, Elizabeth, Using Brain Science to Design New Pathways Out of Poverty, Crittenton Women’s Union, 2014. (
  5. Family Values at Work, Voices from the Front Lines: Real Stories of American Families Living Without Paid Leave—and Glimpses of a Brighter Future, June 2014.(
  6. Appelbaum, E., R. Milkman, L. Elliot and T. Kroeger, Good for Business? Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law, Center for Economic Policy Research, March 2014. (
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Heymann, Jody and Hye Jin Rho, John Schmitt and Alison Earle, Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries, Center for Economic Policy Research, May 2009. (
  11. One bill in Congress is the Healthy Families Act introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT). For more information on this bill, see National Partnership for Women and Families, Fact Sheet: The Healthy Families Act, February 2015. (
  12. A Better Balance, Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States, updated March 2, 2016. (; accessed on March 2, 2016.)
  13. National Partnership for Women and Families, State and Local Action on Paid Sick Days, November 2014. (


Keep yourself and your family healthy this flu season by supporting earned paid sick leave!

If you are anything like me, you’ve been down and out for up to a week recovering from a terrible flu or virus that strikes during these cold winter months. I am very privileged. I have had the opportunity to recover at home, giving my body the time it needs to heal, all while sparing my coworkers and the community from my germs. (more…)

Earned Paid Sick Days Support Public Health for All Children and Families


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children and adults should stay home 24 hours after fevers subside. But most workers are not able to stay home when they’re obviously ill, let alone when they may still be contagious despite feeling physically better. In doing so, they put their coworkers, their customers and the general public at risk. Unfortunately, that does not outweigh the risks of losing a paycheck or even a job.

In a 2013 survey commissioned by Oxfam America, 1 out of 7 low-wage workers and 1 out of 5 low-wage mothers reported losing a job because they were sick or needed to care for a family member. Too many workers lose pay and risk workplace discipline and even termination when they take time off, so they often choose to go to work sick. Adults without earned paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness like the flu or a viral infection. Moreover, these adults are also more likely to delay needed medical care which can lead to greater health complications that cost more money.

When working people have no choice but to go to work sick, they risk infecting others and delay seeking care. The lack of earned paid sick days is especially risky in food service and other jobs requiring frequent contact with the public:

  • More than 310,000 people in Michigan work in restaurants, an industry where most workers lack paid sick days. This puts workers and customers at risk for contagious illnesses like the flu or norovirus also known as “stomach flu.”
  • Child care and nursing home workers also often lack paid sick time putting the most vulnerable populations at risk.
  • In 2013, roughly 56,979 people died from influenza and pneumonia.

Earned paid sick days enable working parents to care for children and other loved ones when they are sick.

  • Nearly 1,500,000 children in Michigan live in families in which all parents work, including 2 of every 3 young children ages 0-5.
  • Earned paid sick days keep children healthy, prevent absences among teachers and students, and limit the spread of contagious diseases.
It’s a Win Win

Earned paid sick days benefit our economy . . .

Earned paid sick days decrease unnecessary healthcare costs. Universal access to paid sick days would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million emergency room visits each year, saving $1.1 billion annually in costs to individuals, private insurers, and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

AND benefit public health.

People who are able to stay home when they’re sick prevent the spread of illness and keep us all healthier.

When parents can take time off, long-term health outcomes improve for themselves and their loved ones.

Having earned paid sick leave for all workers improves the health of individuals, children and families and the public at large. Support the move to secure paid sick leave in Michigan by taking action today! Visit



Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Michigan need paid “safe time”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a month intended to help bring together advocates, highlight the toll domestic violence takes on families and put forth solutions to end this type of violence. One thing Michigan can and should do to help support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is to ensure that all workers have earned paid sick time.


Earned Paid Sick Time Benefits Workers, Businesses and Customers

Questions and Answers

What is earned paid sick time?

The earned paid sick time proposal being considered would allow employees to earn 1 hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked. Persons working for businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be able to take up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year while all other employees would be allowed to use up to 72 hours. Leave could be used to take care of an aging parent or spouse, attend to a sick child or family member, or allow an employee to recover from a physical or mental illness, domestic violence, sexual assault or other violent crime.

Who does and does not receive earned paid sick time now?

In Michigan, 47% of private sector workers, or about 1.6 million people, do not have paid sick time, forcing them to work sick or go without pay. Those who do not receive earned paid sick time are disproportionately low income with 70% of workers in the lowest paying jobs not receiving paid sick time. The lack of paid sick time also disproportionately affects people of color who are more likely to be employed in lower paying jobs and less likely to have access to paid sick leave when compared to white workers. Single mothers are also largely at risk of losing out on access to earned paid benefits.

Why isn’t the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enough?

The FMLA provides job protections for many individuals needing long term leaves; however it excludes any worker whose place of employment has fewer than 50 employees, works less than full time, or has been working at their current position for less than one year. This ultimately excludes about 40% of the workforce nationwide from FMLA benefits.

The FMLA does not require employers to provide paid leave, which often forces those who need time off to not take it for fear of financial instability. The U.S. is one of only a few countries with no national policy requiring employers to provide earned paid sick time.

Does earned paid sick time hurt businesses’ bottom line?

Without access to earned paid sick time, workers will often show up to work even when sick. This is counterproductive and costly to businesses. Research shows that offering paid sick days reduces employers’ costs by improving employee retention and lessening the costs of hiring and training new employees.

In places where earned paid sick time has been adopted it has had either positive effects or no effects on workplace productivity.

What other states have laws on earned paid sick time?

Four states, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon, have enacted laws addressing earned paid sick time, as well as 19 cities and one county across the United States, including Washington, D.C. These state laws all increase access, but coverage is not always universal. Oakland County is considering an earned paid sick time policy for county employees, and there is legislation in both the state House and Senate to implement earned paid sick time in Michigan. Out of concern that the Legislature won’t act, a statewide campaign is underway to place an earned paid sick time proposal on the ballot in Michigan.

What can I do to promote earned paid sick time in Michigan?

More information on earned paid sick time and the campaign to secure it for all Michigan workers can be found at You can sign up to volunteer and get involved. You can also contact your state legislators and tell them to support earned paid sick time legislation in Michigan (House Bill 4167 and Senate Bill 101).


Survivors of Violence and Sexual Assault Need Earned Paid Sick Time


In the United States, more than 12 million women and men suffer from domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking by intimate partners each year. In Michigan alone, 87,871 domestic violence offenses were reported to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting in 2014.

As we continue to work to reduce domestic, sexual and other violence, we must also look at policies that can help survivors recover and heal physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

Survivors of domestic violence often cite financial stability as a reason for staying in abusive relationships. When survivors do try to escape an abuser, keeping a job to provide economic independence can be difficult when they need time off to pursue services to relocate or seek medical attention. Low-wage workers disproportionately do not have earned paid sick leave to access these resources and have to choose between putting their lives or their jobs in jeopardy. An earned paid sick leave policy that includes safe time for domestic violence and sexual assault would provide survivors with the economic stability they need to get by.

A Policy Solution that Helps Survivors

Domestic violence survivors often urgently need to take time away from work to seek help and leave their abusive situation. An earned paid sick leave standard that would guarantee job-protected, paid “safe days” would keep survivors who are seeking assistance from having to risk their jobs or financial security.

Michigan’s earned sick leave referendum would allow workers to earn paid sick time at the rate of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours of paid work. Accrued leave could be used for a worker’s own healthcare needs, to care for a family member’s health, or to seek medical care, victim services, or counseling, or move or take legal action, related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. Workers in businesses with 10 or more employees could take up to 72 hours of earned sick time in a year; those in smaller firms could use up to 40 hours paid leave and thereafter 32 hours of unpaid leave totaling 72 hours annually.

To stand up for victims of domestic and sexual violence and fight for “safe days” through earned paid sick time, go to



Earned sick leave: A policy for a strong Michigan future

When I gave birth to my sweet baby girl about seven years ago, I remember the anxiety I immediately felt about the short time I would have with her before heading back to work. Now, “short time” is all relative, because I was given the opportunity to take up to 12 weeks off, so at least I didn’t have to worry about rushing back to work too soon. But many other women are not so lucky.

Imagine this: nearly one in four new moms, who are employed, return to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to a recent report from In These Times. These are sometimes even mothers who experience complications, have C-sections or whose babies are born premature. Why do they go back to work so soon? Because they can’t afford to go without pay and their employers don’t offer sufficient paid leave time—not even for the birth of a child. (more…)

Time to Care: Earned Sick Leave


In Michigan, more than 1.6 million workers and 46% of private sector workers do not get earned sick leave from their employers. Seventy- percent of workers in the lowest paying jobs (those in the bottom 25% of average wages) do not have earned sick leave. Everyone deserves time to get better, without risking their economic security and being forced to choose between their health and their job.
•  90% of employees in the food service industry do not have paid sick days. Over two-thirds of workers in the restaurant industry report cooking, preparing, or serving food while sick.

•  Women are less likely than men to have paid sick days. Many of the workers least likely to have earned sick leave are those who care for our families and loved ones in schools or elder care facilities.

Michigan Time to Care Coalition Announces Earned Sick Leave Ballot Proposal

In Michigan 1.6 million workers in the state, or 46%, do not have access to paid sick days. This means there are times when these workers go to work sick for fear of losing their wages or even their job. On Monday, the Time to Care Coalition announced an earned sick leave ballot proposal that will fulfill this need. The ballot proposal would allow employees of businesses with 10 or more employees to earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, with up to nine days of paid sick leave. For employers with fewer than 10 employees, employees could earn up to five days of paid leave and four days of unpaid leave. If voters pass the measure, Michigan will be the fifth state in the country to pass an earned sick leave bill. (more…)