“Millions of workers will be able to earn up to seven paid sick days a year if Congress passes the Healthy Families Act, which was introduced yesterday in the House and will be introduced later this week in the Senate. The bill’s sponsors are Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Nearly half the private sector workers in the United States (43 percent) and three in four low-wage workers don’t have a single paid sick day. 100 million workers don’t have a paid sick day they can use to care for a sick child.
“If Congress passes this bill, millions of workers will no longer have to choose between a paycheck and recovery when they get sick or a family member needs care,” National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness said. “We just had a stark reminder of the importance of paid sick days when the flu pandemic hit and President Obama urged workers to stay home if they were sick and keep sick children at home. For millions of workers, taking that simple step to recover more quickly and avoid the spread of contagion means losing pay and possibly losing their job. That’s a terrible risk, especially in this economy. We’re one of the only nations in the world that doesn’t provide workers with a minimum standard of paid sick days. It’s time to change that.”
The Healthy Families Act would require employers with 15 or more employees to let workers earn up to seven paid sick days per year, to be used to address an employee’s short-term medical needs, such as the flu, or those of his or her family. It includes pro-rated leave for part-time employees, and sick days can be used for an employee’s medical appointments, preventative or diagnostic treatment; and to care for a family member with comparable needs. The bill has been introduced in the last two Congresses. The new version includes a ‘paid safe days’ provision to allow workers to use paid sick time to address domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.
The National Partnership ran an advertisement in support of the bill in yesterday’s edition of Roll Call, a newspaper that is widely read on Capitol Hill. “We applaud Senator Kennedy and Congresswoman DeLauro for championing the Healthy Families Act,” Ness added. “This modest legislation is good for families, good for businesses, good for the public health, and good for our economy. It’s unacceptable that millions of hard-working people in this country can’t take time to see a doctor, or stay home if they get strep throat, break a rib or need a mammogram. In a nation that values families, no worker should have to choose between recovery and a paycheck.”
A poll commissioned by the Public Welfare Foundation last year found that one in six workers say they or a family member has been fired, suspended, punished or threatened by an employer because they needed to take a sick day for themselves or a family member. Survey after survey has found overwhelming public support for paid sick days.
San Francisco and the District of Columbia have implemented paid sick days legislation, and Milwaukee voters passed a similar measure that will take effect once legal hurdles clear. Legislation to guarantee workers a minimum standard of paid sick days is pending in a dozen or so states.
The National Partnership leads a diverse coalition that supports the Healthy Families Act; it includes children’s, civil rights, women’s, disability, faith-based, community and anti-poverty groups as well as labor unions, health advocates and leading researchers at top academic institutions.