As the nation marks Administrative Professionals Day, nearly half of all private sector employees do not have even one day of paid sick leave, and 86 million workers either have no paid sick leave or cannot use it to care for sick children. To remedy this situation, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give paid sick days to millions of Americans so they no longer have to choose between a paycheck and recovery when they get sick or a family member needs care.
“It is unacceptable that workers are losing their jobs, risking the public’s health, and sending their children to school sick because of the lack of paid sick days,” Senator Kennedy said. “That’s why Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing the Healthy Families Act, to guarantee workers seven paid sick days a year to care for their own medical needs and those of their family members.”
Paid sick leave is a necessity to ensure that workers have the right to take time off to deal with their own medical needs, or those of their families,” Rep. DeLauro said. “It is appalling that no federal law in the United States guarantees a single day of paid sick leave to employees, particularly at a time when middle class families are trying so hard to make ends meet.”
“On behalf of a broad coalition that includes women’s groups, teachers, nurses, children’s groups, religious groups, and employee and business groups, we thank Senator Kennedy and Congresswoman DeLauro for championing this bill,” said National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness. “Its passage is a major priority for Americans.”
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new cost-benefit analysis of the sick leave legislation. Valuing Good Health: An Estimate of the Costs and Savings for the Healthy Families Act finds that the bill is estimated to save $28,375 million. More than 65 million employees would receive expanded sick leave coverage under the proposed sick leave policy. The cost of the HFA is estimated at $20,236 million, or $5.98 per covered worker per week. The bulk of savings from the bill comes from reductions in employee turnover. In addition, employers’ wage payments to workers who are at work but too sick to be productive will fall, as will the spread of contagious disease (and the absenteeism it causes), health care expenditures for ill workers, and short-term nursing home stays.
“This program would provide 46.3 million workers with their first day of paid sick leave,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann. “This is a basic, essential work support that will help employers, families, and society at large. Employers and employees will all share in the benefits of a healthier, more productive workforce.”
The news conference also featured Karen Engarman, a second grade teacher in Baltimore Public Schools who is Secretary of the Baltimore Teachers Union. She discussed the many ways the bill would benefit her students and colleagues.
The Healthy Families Act requires all employers with at least 15 employees to provide seven days of paid sick leave annually for full-time employees who work at least 30 hours per week or 1,500 hours per year, and a pro-rata amount of leave for part-time employees who work at least 20 hours per week or 1,000 hours per year. Leave can be used to meet an employee’s own medical needs or to allow an employee to care for the medical needs of a family member. Employers are encouraged to provide greater leave benefits, but are not required to modify existing paid leave policies if they meet minimum standards.