Lack of paid leave contributes to state’s persistent poverty

February 29, 2016

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, 505-244-9505 

ALBUQUERQUE—Nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers in New Mexico do not receive paid sick leave benefits at their jobs. This means that these workers cannot stay home or see a doctor when they or a family member are ill without losing wages. This is just one of the many reasons that poverty is so persistent in New Mexico. That’s among the conclusions of the report “Valuing Families at Work: The Case for Paid Sick Leave” being released today by New Mexico Voices for Children.

“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, Ed.D., 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 added.

Paid sick leave is shown to have numerous benefits for employers, families and communities. It leads to lower employee turnover, higher productivity, reduced spread of contagion, and lower health care costs.

New Mexico may be the worst state for paid sick leave, but the nation as a whole fares poorly compared to other advanced countries. In fact, the U.S. is the only advanced nation that guarantees no paid sick leave, for either short- or long-term illnesses. “In that respect, we’re doing a terrible job of supporting families with rational sick leave policies,” said Dr. García.

In the absence of a national policy, local governments are beginning to pass their own laws to guarantee paid sick leave. To date, three states—California, Connecticut and Massachusetts— and 17 municipalities have done so. “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,” said Dr. García. “Guaranteed paid sick leave for all employees would benefit our children, their families, and the state as a whole.”

The report, “Valuing Families at Work: The Case for Paid Sick Leave,” is available online.


New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p);

The Working Poor Families Project is a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, and is managed by Brandon Roberts + Associates.