January 16, 2012

Sick Leave : Who gets it, how much do we get, how much do we use it and why?

In the comments over at The Simple Dollar someone wondered how much sick leave people normally get and how much they typically use.   I found some data on the topic to answer the question.   I figured it is something worth writing more on, so here you go...


Who Gets Sick Leave?

The BLS has good data on sick leave benefits for workers.Its one of the benefit categories they track.

 In March 2010 they published the article Paid Sick Leave in the United States

Most people do get paid sick leave.   61% of all private workers get paid sick leave.    It varies a lot across occupation, pay rates, employer size etc.   Here is how the % of people with sick leave varies across different characteristics. 


All workers 61%
occupational group:
Management, professional and related 84%
Service 42%
Sales and office 66%
Natural resources, construction and maintenance 49%
Production, transportation and material moving 52%
full vs part time
full time 73%
part time  26%
Union affiliation
union 69%
nonunion 61%
Wage percentile
Lowest 25% wages 33%
Highest 25%  81%
Employer size
1-99 workers 52%
100-499 workers 67%
500 or more 80%

How Much Sick Leave do People Receive

The same BLS report also tells us how much sick leave people get on average.   The private average worker gets 8 days of paid sick leave after 1 year service.    The amount of sick leave varies however depending on the job and employer.


All workers 8
full vs part time
full time 8
part time  6
Employer size
1-99 workers 6
500 or more 11


How Much Sick Leave do People actually use?

I found a couple sources to answer the question of how much sick leave people typically use.  
The Employee Benefit Research Institute published some data in 2000


"Among those firms that did track it, the average number of sick days used per year by a salaried exempt employee was 3.8 days; salaried nonexempt employees used 5.6 days; nonunion hourly employees used 4.8 days; and union hourly employees used 5.5 days."

Also CCH Incorporated studies absenteeism and their 2007 data found a 2.3% absenteeism rate for that year.   If people are absent 2.3% of the time then that is around 6 days in a full time work year. 


The numbers vary but it should be safe to say that workers typically use 4-6 days of sick leave per year.

Why do People Use Sick days?

CCH also has data on why people were not at work.

In 2007 the reasons for unscheduled absences  were :


Personal illness 34%
Family Issues 22%
Personal needs 18%
Entitlement Mentality 13%
Stress 13%

Personal illness is pretty straight forward.  That means the person missed work because they were sick.

Family issues could cover a number of things.  I assume a lot of it is childcare related.  Parents often have to care for their sick children.   An article from the National Partnership for Women and Families says   "On average, school-age children miss at least 3 school days per year due to health reasons."   So if you have a kid or two then its likely you'll need to miss some work to take care of your child.

Personal needs is pretty vague.  I don't know if that means "I need to go to the football game" or if its more along the lines of non illness things like court appearances,  religious reasons, or what have you.

I like that they have a category for "entitlement mentality".  Thats the people calling in sick for no other reason than because they have unused paid sick days to use.

Its pretty bad that stress causes 13% of the stick days.   Whats that say about our work environment in this country?



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