Washington, DC—

Providing earned paid sick days to Denver workers would help


the spread of illness in schools, potentially reducing absences for both teachers and students. School children who experience a higher number of absences have more academic difficulty and may not achieve high school graduation, according to a new study released today by the

Institute for Women’s Policy Research


Contagious illnesses can spread more rapidly when parents are forced to send sick children to school because they do not have access to paid time off work. This can put a strain on school resources if teachers become infected by contagious illness. Nationally, salaries for substitute teachers and other administrative costs related to teacher absence total almost $4 billion annually.

“The inability to take time off from work to care for a sick child has serious consequences for schools,” said Dr. Kevin Miller, one of the authors of the

briefing paper

. “Paid sick days would reduce the spread of contagious illnesses in schools and reduce absences of older students forced to care for sick siblings.”


IWPR surveyed a small number of Denver public school officials and found that most reported incidents of teachers getting sick due to contact with ill students. Some principals who responded said they have received complaints from faculty and staff about children with contagious illnesses being sent to school.

If parents cannot stay home to care for sick children, the responsibility can fall on the shoulders of older siblings. Ten out of thirteen of the Denver public school principals interviewed by IWPR reported instances of children staying home to care for a sick younger sibling and several named it as a “main reason” for student absences.

The impact of lacking paid sick days falls disproportionately on girls. At 14 hours per week, girls spend more than twice as many hours as boys per week caring for younger siblings. According to findings from previous research, girls of every racial and ethnic group are far more likely than boys to spend six or more hours per week doing chores at home or babysitting.

A recently released

fact sheet

from IWPR showed that universal access to paid sick days would help reduce racial/ethnic health disparities in Denver, because communities of color are less likely than others to be able to access paid sick days. Roughly 61 percent of all elementary school students (21,127 children) attending Denver Public Schools (DPS) are Hispanic and Spanish-speaking students comprise 40 percent of DPS student population.


About the

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

IWPR conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women’s studies and public policy programs at The George Washington University.