Chart of the Day: Being able to stay home when you’re sick is a perk for the rich

Do you get paid sick days? Count yourself lucky.

Although several cities mandate universal paid sick leave, for the most part, such policies are left to employers. And while they’ve been slightly more generous in the last few years, more than 41 million people in this country can’t take a paid day off when they or their family members are sick, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

paid sick days by income level chart

Unsurprisingly, it’s folks who work in low-wage jobs who are less likely to have access to paid sick days. Less than a third of those who make $19,000 a year do, compared to more than 80 percent of those who make over $65,000. Part-time and Latin@ workers are also less likely to have the benefits. And those who work in the personal care and food service sectors, in particular, are shit outta luck. These occupations tend to be dominated by women. As Bryce Covert notes at Think Progress, women make up more than 90 percent of in-home health aides who care for the elderly and 65 percent of fast food workers. “People sometimes think that women trade off lower pay for better benefits,” the report’s author, Claudia Williams, notes. “But I think the data show that women don’t have trade offs — they don’t have benefits and they don’t have good pay either.” Awesome.

Unable to afford to miss a day, many workers will go to work sick. Which sucks for pretty much all of us–since, Williams points out, “people who are employed in these occupations have constant contact with the public.”

As literally everyone knows, doing anything when you’re sick is basically the worst. Ensuring that no workers have to choose between being able to make rent and taking a day to rest up and drink their fluids is really the bare minimum we should be able to expect from a responsible, moral economy. So if your state is considering requiring paid sick leave, get involved in the fight. As Williams says, “It’s important to have laws, because voluntary employer action is not getting us anywhere.”

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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