At a time when nearly half of private sector workers and three in four low-wage workers do not have even one paid sick day, workers from around the country came to Capitol Hill today to urge Congress to move quickly to pass the Healthy Families Act, introduced this morning by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT). It would give paid sick days to millions of workers, so they no longer have to choose between a paycheck and recovery when they get sick or a family member needs care.
At a Capitol Hill rally organized by the Healthy Families Act Coalition and ACORN, National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness said, “Chances are each of us will get sick this year, but not all of us will be able to take time off from work to get better. Millions of workers with no paid sick days are forced each year to work when they are sick, or send sick children to school or leave them home alone. That’s not compassionate, it’s not family-friendly, and it’s not acceptable.”
“We thank Senator Kennedy and Congresswoman DeLauro for introducing legislation to guarantee workers seven paid sick days each year to recover from their own illness or care for a sick family member,” Ness continued. “The Healthy Families Act is tremendously important to workers, families, businesses, the economy and to our public health. Congress should move quickly to pass it. In a nation that values families, no worker should have to choose between recovery and a paycheck.”
The Healthy Families Act would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide seven paid sick days to address an employee’s short-term medical needs or those of his or her family. It provides pro-rated leave for part-time employees, and provides sick days for an employee’s medical appointment, or other preventative or diagnostic treatment; and to care for a family member with comparable needs.
Today 48 percent of private-sector workers and 79 percent of low-wage workers have no paid sick days. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that our economy would experience a net savings of $8.1 billion per year from reduced turnover, higher productivity, and reducing the spread of contagion in the workplace. Women are disproportionately affected by the lack of paid sick days, Ness said, and “presenteeism” employees coming to work when they are sick may cost our economy $180 billion in lost productivity each year.
Paid sick days are already the standard in most of the world. A study released in February by Dr. Jody Heymann of Harvard and McGill Universities found that at least 145 countries including every one of the top ten most economically competitive nations in the world provide paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses, but the U.S. does not.
The National Partnership is leading a coalition in support of 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.
San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved the country’s first paid sick days ordinance in November. So far this year, paid sick days bills have been introduced in legislatures in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota, and will soon be introduced in the District of Columbia, Missouri, Montana, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the City of Madison. But Ness said we need the Healthy Families Act, to provide paid sick days for workers in every state.