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N.M. Last in U.S. on Sick Leave

N.M. Last in U.S. on Sick Leave

Report: In New Mexico, 49.7 percent of private-sector workers didn't have paid sick leave

BY RENE THOMPSON

Nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers in New Mexico don’t get paid sick leave — the lowest rate in the nation — according to a study released Monday by New Mexico Voices for Children.

This means that workers in the state cannot stay home when they’re sick, nor can they take the time to go see a doctor or take their children to get better, unless they forfeit their wages.

“No parent should ever have to make the terrible choice between paying their bills and caring for a sick child, but too many New Mexico families face that choice every day,” said Veronica C. García, executive director of the child advocacy agency.

“Most jobs that lack benefits like paid sick leave are already low-income jobs. So having to lose wages in order to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member is an additional burden on an already-vulnerable population. It’s not right that low-wage workers can’t afford to take care of themselves when they get sick,” she said.

The report said offering paid sick leave to employees has many benefits for families and communities, but also stressed it can be beneficial for employers too. “It leads to lower employee turnover, higher productivity, reduced spread of contagion, and lower health care costs,” the report said.

The U.S. is the only first-world country that does not ensure paid sick leave for short or long-term illnesses, the report said. “In that respect, we’re doing a terrible job of supporting families with rational sick leave policies,” Garcia said.

With virtually no federal regulation on paid sick leave, states have been passing their own laws to guarantee paid leave. California, Connecticut and Massachusetts have passed such laws.

“Given our high rates of poverty and low rates of employees with paid leave, New Mexico would do well to enact similar legislation. Recent efforts to prevent cities and counties from enacting family-friendly wages and other work policies are a move in the wrong direction,” Dr. Garcia said. “Guaranteed paid sick leave for all employees would benefit our children, their families, and the state as a whole.”

In New Mexico, 49.7 percent of private-sector workers didn’t have paid sick leave, the report said. New Hampshire had the best record with 38.9 percent of workers going without paid sick leave.

Here’s the full reportThe full report.

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Rene Thompson is a staff reporter at ABQ Free Press. Email her at rene@freeabq.com.

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Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com.