Wednesday, April 13, 2016

City Council Takes Action to Make Earned Sick Time a Reality for Chicago Workers

(Chicago) – Today the City Council acted on a recommendation by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Working Families Task Force by proposing an ordinance that would allow all Chicago workers to earn up to five days of sick time per year.

“Every employee—no matter their occupation—should have the peace of mind to know they can take time off work for their own illness or to care for a sick family member without the fear of losing their job or a day’s pay,” said Women Employed Director of Equal Opportunity Policy Melissa Josephs. “At some point, we all get sick or need to get medical care. Women Employed applauds the Chicago City Council for taking immediate action on the Task Force report by introducing an ordinance to institute earned sick time for all workers.”

Legislation has long been a means to protect worker health and safety, so it makes sense to extend this approach to earned sick time. Times have changed, as have the needs of today’s workers. As employers ask more of their employees and the line between work and home life continues to blur, business standards must change to reflect today’s world.

Support in Chicago for a citywide earned sick time ordinance is strong. In a non-binding referendum last year, 82 percent of Chicagoans said they support paid sick time.

And there is a clearly a need. In Chicago, 42 percent of private sector workers—nearly half—do not have access to a single sick day. These employees perform important work and yet do not have the income security of their fellow workers. Recent data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research provides some additional background on those without access to earned sick time:

  • Food preparation and service industry workers have the least access to earned sick time. These employees perform work we all rely on. When they have to come to work sick, they handle our food or care for our children and elderly parents, who are particularly vulnerable to contagious illnesses.
  • Access to earned sick time decreases with business size, making workers at smaller businesses less likely to have this benefit.
  • Only 22 percent of workers earning less than $15,000/year, which represents most workers making minimum wage, report the ability to earn sick time.

The Task Force report, released earlier this month, makes recommendations on a range of issues. The proposals resulted from months of research, testimony from academics and policy experts, and feedback gleaned from more than a dozen focus groups with business owners and employees all over the city.

Women Employed is one of dozens of community, faith, public health, women’s advocates and labor organizations involved in Earned Sick Time Chicago, a coalition leading the charge in support of a sick time policy for workers in the city of Chicago. For information on how to get involved in supporting earned sick time for all Chicago workers, please visit and join us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Women Employed mobilizes people and organizations to expand educational and employment opportunities for America’s working women. Founded in 1973, we have spent four decades opening doors, breaking barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women. Visit us at our website or on social media at FacebookTwitterPinterest, and LinkedIn.