by Rick Nathanson, Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico has the lowest rate in the nation of workers with paid sick leave, according to New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

The report comes in the wake of the organization’s release of the 2015 Kids Count Data Book that placed New Mexico dead last in the nation in children living in poverty.

The sick leave ranking was based on research from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which found nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers in New Mexico do not receive paid sick leave benefits, said Sharon Kayne, spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children.

As a result, she said, the advocacy group is gearing up to lobby lawmakers next year for a bill providing paid sick leave to all private sector workers in the state.

Kayne said nearly all public sector workers, whether at the local, state or federal level, already have paid sick leave, as do most white-collar type workers. The majority of jobs that fail to offer paid sick leave are minimum and low-wage positions held by “the people who can least afford to take time off when they are sick or need to care for an ill family member.”

Paid sick leave is not only good policy for workers and their families, but for employers, as well, she said. “Employers find that when they offer benefits like paid sick leave, workers are more productive and there is less turnover, which saves employers time and money on training.”

Further, Kayne said, providing paid sick leave is a public health issue. People should not be forced into a work setting when they are sick with the flu or other contagious illnesses.

“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, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. It’s an “additional burden on an already vulnerable population,” she said.

Copyright 2016, Albuquerque Journal