Ensure paid sick and parental leave

Prevention, Early Intervention, & Youth
Parity, Coverage, & Equitable Access
social determinants of health
Economic Security
Black/African American
Coverage & Standards
No items found.
Federal department
No items found.
house committees
House Ways and Means Committee
senate committees
Senate Finance Committee


Congress should pass the Healthy Families Act,[1] which would ensure paid sick leave, and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act,[2] which would ensure twelve weeks of family or medical leave for workers.[3]


The United States remains one of only two major countries that does not provide paid time off for short-term illnesses nor paid leave for family and medical needs.[3] A quarter of the private sector workforce and 9 percent of the public sector workforce lack paid sick leave.[4] The lack of paid sick leave is associated with workers reporting higher levels of psychological distress.[5] A universal paid sick leave policy, which could be used by individuals with mental health and substance use disorders, would reduce preventable emergency department visits and result in cost savings of $1.1 billion annually, including $500 million for public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.[3]

Disparities exist by race and ethnicity for access to and use of paid leave. Black and Hispanic workers have lower rates of paid family and medical leave access and use than their White, non-Hispanic counterparts.[6] Research has shown that paid parental leave policies greatly improve maternal mental health; these policies give mothers time to recover from childbirth and to care for their child and enhances families’ economic security.[7] One study found increasing the length of maternity leave from under eight weeks to eight to twelve weeks showed a large improvement in mental health– increasing the length of leave by one week could reduce depressive symptoms by 6 to 7 percent.[8] A longer paid leave policy allows parents to take time off without the risk of economic ruin to bond with their children. Despite these benefits, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that less than one in four workers had access to paid family leave in 2021.[9]

Congress should pass the Healthy Families and the FAMILY Acts to mitigate these disparities and provide paid leave for workers.


1. Healthy Families Act. H.R. 3409 (DeLauro) and S. 1664 (Sanders), 118th Congress, (2023-2024). Last Accessed May 2023.

2. Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. H.R. 3481 (DeLauro) and S. 1714 (Gillibrand), 118th Congress (2023-2024). Last Accessed May 2023.

3. “Sen. Sanders and Rep. DeLauro Introduced Legislation that Would Finally Guarantee Paid Sick Leave to Workers in America.” Senator Bernie Sanders. Last Accessed May 17, 2023.

4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey. Paid sick leave benefits factsheet. Last Updated January 12, 2021.

5. Stoddard-Dare, Patricia, LeaAnne DeRigne, Cyleste C. Collins, Linda M. Quinn, and Kimberly Fuller. 2018. “Paid Sick Leave and Psychological Distress: An Analysis of U.S. Workers.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 88, no. 1 (2018): 1–9. Last Updated September 2018.

6. Bartel, Ann P., Soohyun Kim, Jaehyun Nam, Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel. 2019. Racial and ethnic disparities in access to and use of paid family and medical leave: evidence from four nationally representative datasets. Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last Updated January 2019.

7. Kathleen Romig and Kathleen Bryant. 2021. “A National Paid Leave Program Would Help Workers, Families.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Last Updated April 27, 2021.

8. National Bureau of Economic Research. “Do Longer Maternity Leaves Affect Maternal Health?” Last Updated March 2004.

9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “EBS Home”. Last Accessed 2022.