While many Americans worry about making ends meet, the threat of financial insecurity is even greater for working adults without paid sick leave, according to the findings of a recent study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Cleveland State University.

The article, “Working U.S. Adults without Paid Sick Leave Report More Worries about Finances,” was published on October 15 in the Journal of Social Service Research. Even after controlling for education, race, sex, marital status, employment, and insurance, the researchers found a positive association between not having paid sick leave and worrying about both short-term and long-term financial issues. The lead authors of the study, Patricia Stoddard Dare, associate professor of social work at Cleveland State, and LeaAnne DeRigne, associate professor of social work at FAU, noted that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one-third of all workers in the U.S. lack access to paid sick leave.

The study’s findings were based on the responses of a sample of 17,897 working adults aged 18-64 who participated in the 2015 National Health Interview Survey. The analysis found that workers without paid sick leave were more likely to say they worry about both short-term financial issues like housing expenses, as well as long-term financial issues such as retirement or future bills for an illness or accident. The results showed that compared to workers who had paid sick leave, workers who lacked paid sick leave were 1.59 times more likely to report being very worried about their normal monthly bills, and were 1.55 times more likely to report being very worried about paying rent, mortgage, or other housing costs.

In prior research, DeRigne and Stoddard Dare demonstrated that workers without paid sick leave benefits also reported a higher level of psychological distress: compared to workers with paid sick leave, these workers were 1.45 times more likely to report that their distress symptoms interfered a lot with their daily life and activities. Their previous research also showed that working adults without paid sick leave were three times more likely to have incomes below the poverty line, and were more likely to experience food insecurity and need welfare services.

“The costs of providing sick leave benefits may be lower than employers think when taking into account the costs of workers coming to work when they are sick or performing sub-optimally,” said Stoddard Dare. “Both employers and policymakers should consider the potential cost savings associated with offering a few guaranteed paid sick day.”

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 12

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