Still sick, still poor: New study shows Orange County with minimal access to paid sick days



Today, the Institute for Women's Policy Research released a study specifically focusing on the access to paid sick days for residents of Orange County, something that by now you're certainly aware has been a bone of contention over the last two years. Seeing as we're in early voting for the Aug. 26 primary, and said primary ballot does actually include the legally mandated referendum asking Orange County voters if they do in fact support 56 hours of sick time annually for companies with 15 or more employees – whether it will end up being enforceable or not, thanks to a statewide pre-emption passed by the legislature last year – the figures are fairly striking. Most alarming? Nearly three out of every four hospitality workers do NOT have access to any paid sick days here where tourism is the root of our economy. We know, we know, old news. But seriously, next time the county government tries to tell you that this is a solution without a need, consider what it's like for those who are coughing into your pancakes. Here's the presser from the study.

Washington, DC—A new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that 45 percent of workers living in Orange County, Florida, lack even a single paid sick day. This lack of access is especially pronounced among Hispanic workers, with 56 percent lacking access to paid sick days.

Paid sick days access in Orange County varies widely by occupation, and is especially uncommon in jobs that require frequent contact with the public, including those in the travel and tourism sector, which represents one out of every three jobs in Orange County. In Orange County, 73 percent of workers in the Accommodation and Food Services industry—who have frequent contact with Orlando’s tourists—lack access to paid sick days, compared with just nine percent of Public Administration workers.

“Paid sick days are an inexpensive, effective tool for promoting public health,” said Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President and Executive Director. “Paid sick days give workers the ability to seek health services or stay home with sick children or other family members, helping reduce the spread of illness among customers. This basic benefit is especially important in the tourism industry, where sick workers could infect individuals who then board ships and planes, unnecessarily spreading illness around the country, not to mention ruining vacations.”

Previous research shows that about half of all workers who are covered by paid sick days do not take any days off for illness or injury in a given year. When used, however, this earned time allows workers to obtain health care for themselves or their families more promptly, leading to improved health outcomes, speedier recoveries, and a more productive workforce.

Several U.S. communities have passed paid sick days laws, including New York City; Washington, DC; Portland, OR; Newark and Jersey City, NJ; Seattle, WA; and most recently, San Diego, CA, and Eugene, OR. Available research shows little evidence of negative impacts on employment or local businesses.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

Organize Now Director Stephanie Porta, who fought for the sick time initiative (and continues to), added the following.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research that came out today found that approximately 45% of workers living in Orange County, Florida lack any paid sick time. In fact, the research found that 91% of our Public Administration employees have access to paid sick time and only 27% of those employed in the Accommodation and Food Service industries do. We know our local government believes paid sick time is important to offer to their employees but does not offer the same rights to the rest of Orange County workers.

It is a fact that paid sick time creates stronger and safer work environments for everyone. In a county that relies so heavily on tourism, it is shocking that nearly half of all workers are not able to stay home when they are sick or access preventative care for themselves or their families.


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