Family Forward Policies

Sick and Safe Leave

Sick and safe leave refers to paid leave for employees to care for themselves or a family member during a temporary, short-term medical issue, such as illness; to attend to a critical safety need, such as domestic violence or sexual assault recovery; or for preventative health care, such as an annual well visit or a prenatal doctor appointment.

Benefits to Employers1

  • Increases productivity Does not lower profits
  • Increases retention, reducing turnover costs
  • Reduces employee absenteeism
  • Provides healthier work environment
  • Reduces health care costs
  • Workers recover from temporary disability, illness or injury more quickly
  • Increases loyalty

Benefits to Children2,3

  • Encourages use of preventative health care
  • Children recover more quickly from illness and injury when parents are available to care for them
  • Lowers risk for flu and other illnesses by encouraging children to stay home until they are well
  • Allows workers to care for themselves and their children while in crisis situations, when children and parent health and well-being can
  • be severely impacted. For example, children who experience domestic violence face a host of short- and long-term health issues, and safe leave removes concerns about losing a job while trying to leave a violent spouse or partner.

Benefits to Parents/Families4,5

  • Encourages use of preventative health care
  • Workers recover from disability, illness, or injury more quickly
  • Lowers risk for flu and other illnesses by encouraging parents to stay home until they or their children are well
  • Allows workers to care for themselves and their children while in crisis situations, when children and parent health and well-being can
  • be severely impacted. For example, children who experience domestic violence face a host of short- and long-term health issues, and safe leave removes concerns about losing a job while trying to leave a violent spouse or partner.

Research or Recommendations from National Organizations

Workers with 10 or more paid sick days are more likely to access preventative health care services.6

While it does not provide a recommended amount, the American Medical Association strongly encourages private employers to offer paid sick and medical leave and allow employees to use that leave to care for children when they are sick.7

Sick and safe leave legislation for New York City, the state of Maryland, and the state of New Jersey allow workers to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave each year.

Range of Practices in the United States

Nearly one in three workers—and seven in 10 low- wage workers—do not have access to paid sick leave through their employer.8

A 2017 Bloomberg BNA survey shows that 37 percent of employers who offer sick leave have policies that include safe leave for victims of crimes, domestic violence, assault, or stalking.9

Ten states have enacted paid safe leave laws. North Carolina does not have a safe leave law but does mandate that employers provide “a reasonable period of leave” for victims of domestic violence to obtain a court order or obtain relief. Under the NC statute, leave does not need to be paid.

As of 2015, federal contractors must provide at least seven days of paid sick and family medical leave to employees for preventative care, an existing health condition, illness, or injury.

The US is one of the few developed, industrialized nations that does not require paid sick leave by federal law.

Eleven states, along with 33 jurisdictions and the District of Columbia, have a law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to employees. Other states, such as Georgia and Minnesota, have a “kin care law” that requires employers who offer paid sick leave to their employees to allow employees to use that time to care for family members. Neither the state of North Carolina nor any jurisdictions within the state have a sick leave law or a kin care law.

Case Study

Katie Button Restaurants

Location: Asheville • Year Founded: 2008

In the food service industry, working while sick is often a fact of life:

  • Nationally, nearly 90 percent of restaurant workers do not have paid sick time.1
  • Two-thirds of restaurant workers say they’ve cooked, prepared, and served food while sick.
  • In a Centers for Disease Control study, 49 percent of food workers say they worked at least one shift while suffering from vomiting or diarrhea over the past year in part because they knew they would not be paid if they stayed home sick.

But at Asheville’s Nightbell, Curaté, and Button and Co. Bagels, hourly and salary employees can stay home with pay when they’re sick. Employees at these three popular, award-winning restaurants begin accruing paid leave after 90 days. Full-time employees are eligible for up to a week of paid time off initially, and up to two weeks after a year. Leave goes up to three weeks with six years of service or more. Managers accrue additional days.

According to a 2016 interview in The Asheville Citizen Times, Button said offering paid time helps attract workers and keep them longer. Paid leave also helps curb the spread of sickness to the entire staff.54

“This helps us cut down on how quickly the flu or a head cold can pass through your fellow coworkers,” she said in the article.

Though Button admits in the article that the extra expense of providing paid time off may be too much for some restaurants, which often have very thin margins, offering paid time off provides her staff with peace of mind.

“It makes all of us feel good to be able to say to someone, ‘Hey man, you’re sick. Go home,’ and not have that thought that this guy has three kids at home,’” she said in the article.

Show 1 footnote
  1. The Center for Law and Social Policy. “The Business Benefits of Paid Sick Time.” March 2017. https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/public/resources-and-publications/publication-1/Business-Case-for-HFA-3.pdf.
Show 9 footnotes
  1. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  2. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  3. Effects of domestic violence on children.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
  4. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  5. Effects of domestic violence on children.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
  6. DeRigne, LeaAnne, PhD; Patricia Stoddard-Dare, PhD; Linda M. Quinn, PhD; Cyleste Collins, PhD. “How Many Paid Sick Days Are Enough?” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. June 2018. https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2018/06000/How_Many_Paid_Sick_Days_Are_Enough_.1.aspx.
  7. American Medical Association. “AMA Recognizes Public Health Benefits of Paid Sick Leave.” June 15, 2016. https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-recognizes-public-health-benefits-paid-sick-leave.
  8. National Partnership for Women and Children. http://www.paidsickdays.org/research-resources/quick-facts.html.
  9. Elgatian, Tawny. “Employers Still Favor Traditional Paid Leave Menu, Reports Show.” Bloomberg BNA. October 11, 2017. https://www.bna.com/employers-favor-traditional-b73014470730/