Paid Sick and Family Leave: Creating a Healthier Workforce

May 19, 2015

We know that paid leave provides families with economic security at times when they most need it, but a recent report shows paid leave also allows workers greater access to preventative care to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy from the start. While millions of Americans now have greater access to affordable health insurance, our country’s lack of paid leave policy leaves many unable to actually take advantage of the benefits of preventative care. Too often, leave without pay creates financial turmoil for families, especially low-income and single parents. Individuals have to forgo routine check-ups and medical attention when they’re ill, which increases their risk for greater health problems in the future. This has serious impacts on the nation’s overall health care expenses. Evidence suggests that reducing chronic diseases by 5% through preventative care measures could reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs by $5.5 billion by 2030. Everyone should have access to quality and affordable preventative health care without having to sacrifice their job or earnings. Paid sick and family leave policies help workers remain employed while improving their preventive care practices. Working individuals with access to paid leave take better care of themselves. While the Family Medical and Leave Act provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job protected leave, 46% of workers have stated that they cannot take time off because of financial reasons. Because of financial consequences, many employees choose work over their health, which causes greater health risks in the future and exposes colleagues in the workplace to illness. Access to paid sick and family leave encourages workers to take necessary time off to maintain their health. In California, workers are more likely to receive routine checkups and 72% of American women with access to paid leave receive screenings for breast cancer. Taking time off for necessary health care reasons allows workers to take advantage of the ACA’s preventative health care options and helps promote healthier and more productive employees. Parents with paid sick and family leave are better able to respond to their children’s health care needs. As a result, children have improved health outcomes. Since California passed its Paid Family Leave program in 2002, mothers with access to paid time off are more likely to take six to eight weeks of leave around childbirth, the minimum amount of time recommended by physicians. New mothers on paid leave are more likely to breastfeed their newborns and take them in for regular pediatric checkups and immunizations. As expected, children recover from illness quicker, return to school sooner, and are less likely to spread disease to classmates when their parents stay home to care for them. A few studies even suggest that access to paid leave during an infant’s first year leads to positive cognitive and behavioral effects in the future. Paid sick and family leave enables parents to balance work and caregiving demands and enables families to remain financially secure. Check back on our site regularly to learn more about how paid leave policies benefit families, businesses, and the economy.
Montana Budget & Policy Center

Shaping policy for a stronger Montana.

MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.