Implementation Day: A Time to Celebrate Progress, Demand Action on National Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days

Alex Baptiste

Today, working people and advocates for fairer workplaces are marking Implementation Day to celebrate the anniversaries of paid sick days and paid family and medical leave laws across the country. Since 2007, 10 states, the District of Columbia and 22 other jurisdictions have implemented paid sick days laws, with the majority of legislative victories coming in just the last five years. After the first paid family and medical leave program took effect in California 15 years ago, seven more states and D.C. have passed laws.

These anniversaries are proof of the progress of the paid leave and paid sick days movements, as well as evidence of the momentum toward national policies. But what would our country look like if Implementation Day celebrated not a patchwork of state and local laws, but comprehensive, national policies that provide critical protections for working people no matter where they work?

Right now more than 34 million private sector workers cannot earn a single paid sick day. This means they must choose between a paycheck and recovering from the flu or staying home to care for a sick child. For many workers, missing even a few days of work jeopardizes their ability to pay for the basics, like rent and groceries. The result is that individuals without paid sick days are more likely to send a sick child to school or day care, seek emergency room care, and are less likely to receive preventive care such as flu shots.

The Healthy Families Act would establish a national paid sick days standard, enabling more than 30 million additional workers to earn paid sick time and expanding access to paid sick days to more than 90 percent of the private sector workforce. Evidence from cities and states with paid sick days laws in place show that a national standard would reduce the risk of community contagion, prevent costly emergency room visits and strengthen the economic security of families.

Today only 17 percent of the workforce has access to paid family leave through their employer, and less than 40 percent has personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program. This means millions are left behind when they need to welcome a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member or address their own medical issue.

The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program. The FAMILY Act would cover workers in all companies, no matter their size. A national paid leave program would save employers money by reducing turnover costs and would allow small and medium-sized businesses to compete with larger companies for talent. National paid leave would help improve the health and development of new children, bolster women’s labor force participation, grow our economy, and even help to close the gender wage gap.

It’s encouraging that state and local lawmakers understand that when working people have time to address their serious or short-term illnesses, or to care for their loved ones, families, communities, businesses and local economies thrive. States and cities must continue to fight for comprehensive and inclusive paid leave and paid sick days policies. But having access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave should not depend on your zip code.

We look forward to a future when we will celebrate National Implementation Day and urge members of Congress to support and pass the Healthy Families Act and FAMILY Act.

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