paid leave

New Study Says Only 6 Percent of Low-Wage Workers Have Access to Paid Leave

Most low-wage workers in the U.S. have no paid-leave policy. Photo: Mayte Torres/Getty Images

The 2016 campaign was full of firsts: the first time a woman earned a major party’s nomination for president, for example, and the first time paid leave became a major campaign issue. Hillary Clinton’s push for things like paid leave and affordable child care was a natural extension of issues she’d worked on her whole career, while Donald Trump’s interest in the topic stemmed from his daughter, Ivanka. Regardless, visibility was progress — especially in light of a new report from Paid Leave for the United States, which shows that the vast majority of low-wage workers still have no access to paid leave at all.

According to the report, which looked at paid-leave policies from 35 major U.S. companies (22 of which confirmed their policies for all classes of employees on the record, and 13 of which declined to do so), only 6 percent of low-wage workers, defined here as workers who make $30,000 a year or less, have access to paid leave — and many companies that provide paid-leave benefits for their corporate employees have a reduced policy or no policy at all for their hourly workers.

For example, Walmart — the nation’s largest private employer — gives birth mothers at the corporate level 12 weeks of paid leave, but hourly employees get 6 to 8 weeks at partial pay. Starbucks, too, has unequal policies for its corporate and hourly employees: New moms at the corporate level get 18 weeks of paid leave while new fathers get 12, but baristas who give birth get 6 weeks of paid leave, while new dads get none. At Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell), corporate moms get 18 weeks of paid leave, while field employees don’t get any.

The report notes that companies like Ikea, Levi’s, Nike, and Nordstrom, as well as several major banking companies, offer equal paid-leave policies to hourly and salaried workers. But overall, income is still the best predictor of who has access to paid leave and who doesn’t — people who make more than $75,000 are twice as likely to get paid leave than people who make less than $30,000. And the first step toward crafting a national paid-leave policy is understanding that.

Study Says Only 6 Percent of Low-Wage Workers Get Paid Leave