Paid Sick Leave Takes a Big Step Forward in Congress
by The Opportunity Agenda, Fri May 22, 2009 at 01:32:10 PM EDT
As the country considers how we might reform our health care system, it is important to note that good health requires not just health insurance, but also the flexibility to care for oneself or one's family when sick, and to help prevent the spread of contagious diseases through the workplace. Today, Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced a bill, dubbed the Healthy Families Act, that would guarantee American workers up to 7 paid sick days each year, and allow workers to take these paid sick days to care for ill family members.
As the New York Times reported:
The bill, the Healthy Families Act, would be binding on employers that had 15 or more workers. It would guarantee employees one paid hour off for each 30 hours worked, enabling them to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. They would be entitled to claim their days when they or a child, a parent, a spouse or someone else close to them became ill. [...]
The legislation’s preamble notes that nearly half of private-sector workers and three-fourths of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days. Far too often, advocates say, such employees feel compelled to go to work even when ill, because they fear being fired or at the least losing the day’s pay.
The bill is perhaps mislabeled, and might be instead called the Healthy Workplace Act. As one small business owner who has provided paid sick days since 2006 noted, having contagious workers come in can lower productivity as they spread the illness to others in the workplace. “'A person is not coming in sick, and then two days later there are two employees not coming in, and then three days later three employees not coming in,' [Madison, WI coffee shop-owner Lindsey] Lee said. 'It has helped in the long run.'”
The United States is currently the only industrialized nation that guarantees no paid sick leave.
Read more at The Opportunity Agenda's website.