National Partnership for Women & Families

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In the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, A Chance to Stand Up for Working Families

May 23, 2011 | Campaigns > Paid Sick Days

Philadelphia’s workers are hoping the city will soon take a critical step toward changing the way workplaces honor families. As early as June, the Philadelphia City Council could approve a law that provides workers the right to earn paid sick time to recover from illness or care for a family member. With more than 210,000 working people in the city lacking this basic protection, establishing a paid sick days standard should be common sense.

It’s simple: when workers and their families are healthier, our communities and businesses benefit. Yet 44 million workers in the United States lack paid sick days. Every day, these workers are forced to choose between their family’s health and their paychecks. It’s a terrible decision to have to make because either choice can threaten their financial security, their health, and/or the health of their communities.

The choice between health and the ability to put food on the table is unthinkable for most, and it’s particularly hard for working women who support their families as both breadwinners and as caregivers. Strikingly, half of working mothers in the U.S. report having to miss work when a child gets sick. Half of those women, and two-thirds of lower-income women, lose pay when they do so.

Fortunately, in Philadelphia, members of the city council recognize the impact a lack of paid sick days is having on the city’s working families, and they have identified a common sense solution. A vote on the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance could — and should — come soon. The law would allow Philadelphia workers to earn paid sick time they could use for their own illness, preventive care or to care for a family member.

This bill is a critical step toward meeting the needs of Philadelphia families — one with proven benefits for workers and businesses. A similar law in San Francisco has demonstrated clearly that a paid sick days standard can significantly boost the well-being of working families with minimal impact on employers. Bay Area businesses have flourished following the law’s implementation. That success dispels the sky-is-falling concerns raised by opponents from Philadelphia’s business lobby.

Members of the city council must continue to move forward with the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance. They should look at the proven success of paid sick days laws and remember what is at stake in this debate for Philadelphia’s working families and communities. By establishing a paid sick days standard, Philadelphia can show that it truly values its families. It’s time.


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