New Report: Immigrants More Likely to Lack Earned Sick Days

In the United States there are 45 million workers without access to earned sick days, including over 1 million in New Jersey. A new report highlights the fact that the workers denied access are some of the ones who need it the most: immigrants.

Immigrants are more likely to live in poverty, less likely to have access to public safety-net benefits and, as a new report from CLASP and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds, have less access to earned sick days. Only 54 percent of immigrants have access to sick days compared to about 63 percent of their native-born peers, with Hispanic immigrants the least likely of all (41 percent) to have this basic workplace benefit. Given that many Latino immigrants work for cash in the “informal economy,” it’s likely that the percentage of uncovered workers is significantly higher.

For a storied “nation of immigrants,” the United States is making it increasingly difficult to for striving immigrants to survive. Being able to rest, recover and go to work healthy should not be added to the countless challenges immigrants face in America. Immigrants leave behind their culture, their country and, often, their family. Ironically, immigrants coming to the United States are also likely leaving behind access to earned sick days, since the U.S. is one of only two developed countries and among a minority (25 percent) of all countries that doesn’t grant workers earned sick day benefits.

Additionally, the report notes that immigrants accounted for 42 percent of the growth in the labor force from 2005 and 2010 and lower income immigrants who work full-time are less likely to have access to earned sick days than their similarly paid native-born counterparts. As immigrants continue to make up a larger share of the labor force (as demographers and trend watchers predict), the percentage of the workforce without earned sick days will grow – unless policymakers take action.

While this new report doesn’t look at state-level data, we do know that New Jersey is a state filled with immigrants. The Garden State has the third-highest percentage of foreign-born residents and an incredibly diverse immigrant population. These folks, like everyone else in New Jersey, deserve the ability to stay home when they are sick without losing a paycheck, or – worse – a job. Jersey City and Newark have enacted earned sick day laws but the vast majority of uncovered New Jersey workers are still waiting for action. A bill extending earned sick days statewide sits in an Assembly committee awaiting such action.