Women face challenges maintaining employment throughout the life course, in part due to caretaking responsibilities. Paid sick leave (PSL) provides workers job-protected paid leave on an as-needed basis to address their own health or care for an ill family member. While many employers voluntarily provide their workers with PSL, 37% of private-sector workers lacked access in 2019. Gender and racial/ethnic segregation of work result in differential access to paid sick leave In the absence of mandates, workers often face penalties and job loss in addition to lost income when they are unable to report to work, and job separations are strongly associated with lower lifetime earnings. Several states and cities have recently enacted legislation requiring employers to provide PSL to all workers. This study explores if state-level PSL mandates improve labor force participation and job attachment among women.
The study uses data from the 2004-2019 American Community Survey, accessed via IPUMS. Difference-in-differences models were used to estimate the effects of PSL mandates implemented in 5 states between 2007 and 2016. Seven states that implemented mandates after 2016 were dropped from analyses, as were four states containing cities with local mandates. The sample is limited to 9,112,759 women ages 18-64 years who did not give birth in the previous year. Outcomes included any work for pay in the public or private sector and the number of weeks employed in the previous year. All models control for respondent demographic characteristics and state and year fixed-effects. To further isolate women expected to be most likely to gain access to paid sick leave through legislation, stratified analyses were conducted on samples limited to Latinas, service industry workers, and parents of children under 13 years.
Between 2004 and 2019, 76.2% of women reported working in the past year; however, almost 30% reported a break in employment of more than two weeks. The implementation of PSL mandates was associated with an overall increase in employment of 0.6 percentage points (p<0.001), with stronger increases among parents (1.4 percentage points (p<0.001). Additionally, PSL mandates were associated with an increase in the number of weeks worked in the previous year (0.3185 weeks, p<0.001), with effects again observed among parents (0.428, p<0.05). No significant changes in labor force participation were observed among Latinas or service sector workers.
Conclusions and Implications:
Recent PSL mandates appear to increase women’s labor force participation and reduce job separations, particularly for women parenting young children. However, the mandates did not increase work among Latinas or service workers, which may be related to the time required to accrue enough PSL days to impact employment, as well as limited awareness of the availability of the benefit. As the mandates mature and workers have more time to accrue paid days, it will be essential to continue to assess the potential for PSL to play a role in supporting employment and improving workplace equity.