New Poll: Over Half of Americans Know Someone That’s Used Paid Sick Leave to Take a Paid Vacation

Survey Shows Decreased Public Support for a Sick Leave Mandate
  • Publication Date: July 2011

  • Topics: Health Care

Today, the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released a new survey commissioned from Opinion Research Corporation* that finds a majority of the public knows someone that has used paid sick time for reasons other than an illness—such as extending their summer vacation.

The survey also found that the vast majority of the public opposes a government sick leave mandate if there are unintended consequences like those that occurred following the passage of a sick leave mandate in San Francisco including reduced hours or lost jobs.

“This survey shows that providing a new benefit of paid sick time to employees doesn’t mean they’ll use that benefit as intended,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at EPI. “It also shows that support for a sick leave mandate crumbles when Americans are informed of the real-world consequences.”

Poll respondents were asked if they knew anyone that had used a paid sick day for non-medical reasons, like taking a vacation day.

• Over half (51 percent) of respondents said they knew someone who had used a sick day when they weren’t actually sick.

• People weren’t so forthcoming about their own improper usage of sick leave: Only 21 percent of respondents said they had personally used sick leave for non-medical reasons, including 27 percent of males and 16 percent of females.

Respondents were also asked if they would support a nationwide paid sick leave requirement if it caused some employees to lose scheduled hours or their jobs.

• Despite previous polls suggesting broad support for a sick leave requirement, only 22 percent of respondents supported a sick leave mandate if such a policy would cause unintended consequences like reduced hours or job loss.

These survey results are supported by real-world experience. A survey of San Francisco employers by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) following passage of that city’s sick leave requirement found that only 3.3 percent reported a reduction in the number of employees who came to work sick. Conversely, the median employee used 3 paid sick days per year, suggesting that those days were not always used for an illness.

The IWPR survey also found that approximately 30 percent of the lowest-paid employees reported layoffs or reduced hours at their place of work following passage of that city’s paid sick leave mandate.

“A one-size-fits-all benefit mandate that treats a restaurant or grocery store the same as an investment bank or law firm is bound to have unintended consequences,” Saltsman concluded. “The public clearly understands that a mandated benefit that puts your income at risk is no benefit at all.”

* Interviews with 1,009 adult Americans contacted by telephone on July 7-10, 2011. Poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation.