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Paid Sick Leave Benefits Children’s Health

This month, the Illinois Senate has the opportunity to pass legislation to protect children’s health by providing Illinois workers with paid sick days.

The Healthy Workplace Act (HB 2771) would allow an employee to accrue and use up to five paid sick days per year. Employees may use their paid sick days to care for themselves or a family member. It is an important measure when it comes to children’s health.

Receiving care from their parents is important for children’s mental as well as physical health. Parents have been shown to play important roles in the care of children with chronic and acute conditions such as epilepsy, asthma and diabetes.

Many studies have also shown that a parent’s presence helps with their children’s recovery. When parents are involved in children’s care, children recover more rapidly from outpatient procedures and the duration of hospital stays is reduced by 31%. When parental involvement in the care of sick children is increased, children’s anxiety decreases. On the other hand, separating young children from their parents when they are sick has been shown to have detrimental effects.

While parental involvement is key to the health of children, many parents are forced to decide whether to leave a sick child home alone, send a sick child to school, or stay home with their child and risk losing pay or getting fired because they have no access to paid sick leave. In one study, 58% of working parents continued to go to work when their children were sick. Of the parents who were able to stay home with their children when they were sick, more than half reported that the reason they could stay at home was that they received some type of paid leave. In a separate study conducted in Chicago and Los Angeles, 41% of parents with children with special needs stated that at least once in the past year they went to work even though they felt they should have taken time off to take care of their sick child.

Paid sick leave is important for all working parents but is essential for low-income working mothers, who are primarily responsible for their children’s health. More than half of low-income mothers must take time off when their children are sick compared to a third of higher income mothers. While 71% of higher income mothers have paid sick leave, only 31% of low-income mothers have the same type of support. Among the mothers who do not have other child care options and must miss work when their children are sick, 60% are not paid for that time off.

paid sick leave

 

Lack of paid sick leave compromises the health of all Illinois children. Parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely as parents with paid sick days to send a sick child to school or day care putting at risk the health of their children and that of other children. On the other hand, parents who have paid sick or vacation leave are more than five times as likely to care for their sick children compared to those without leave shortening the time children are sick and protecting the health of other children.

Helping to ensure parents have the time and the financial resources to take care of their children, paid sick leave safeguards the health of children in Illinois.

Written by Militza M. Pagán
Consultant to Voices for Illinois Children

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