FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Top Work/Family Expert Commends Harkin, DeLauro for Introducing Healthy Families Act, Urges Congress to Quickly Pass Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. — May 12, 2011 — Millions of workers will be able to earn up to seven paid sick days per year if Congress passes the Healthy Families Act, which was introduced in both the Senate and House today by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The bill would keep workers from having to choose between their paychecks and the health and wellbeing of their families when they get sick or a family member needs care.
"Everyone gets sick, but not everyone in this country can afford to get better — or make sure that their children get better. Four in ten private sector workers are being forced to go to work sick or send sick children to school because there is no national paid sick days standard that protects them from having to sacrifice their economic security to stay home," said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "We commend Senator Harkin and Representative DeLauro for their leadership in introducing a common sense bill that will allow working families to earn the job-protected time they need to recover from illness and seek critical preventive care and medical treatment. If Congress does the right thing and quickly passes the Healthy Families Act, it will strengthen the economic recovery and support working families, businesses and public health."
The Healthy Families Act would allow workers at businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year, to be used to address their own short-term medical needs, such as the flu, or the needs of their families. It includes pro-rated leave for part-time workers, and sick days can be used for medical appointments, preventative or diagnostic treatment; and to care for a family member with comparable needs. The bill also includes a paid safe days provision to allow workers to use paid sick days to address domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.
Today, more than 44 million private sector workers in the United States lack even a single paid sick day they can use to recover from common illnesses, either because their employers don‟t offer paid sick days or because they haven‟t been on the job long enough to access the paid sick days their employers provide. In January, the Institute for Women‟s Policy Research released new data showing that the occupations most likely to have regular contact with the public — food service and preparation, and personal care and service — are among the least likely to provide paid sick days because of low eligibility rates and high numbers of low-tenure employees.
"Every day, many Americans go to work ill, often worsening their own health or infecting co-workers, for fear of missing a day of pay or even losing their job," Senator Harkin said. "Paid sick days give families the security they need to care for a sick child or an ailing parent, or to recover from an illness. American workers should never be forced to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love."
"I believe that everyone should be able to take care of themselves and their families if they are sick without having to worry about losing their jobs. Too many of our workers, especially those who work in the food service industry, where health is so critical, are unable to do this. And simply showing up to work when you are sick, known as 'presenteeism,' costs employers a staggering $160 billion a year in lost productivity," said Congresswoman DeLauro. "It is in the best interests of our nation, and especially our families, to ensure American workers have access to paid sick days."
San Francisco and the District of Columbia have successfully implemented paid sick days laws, and other cities and states are considering doing the same. Legislation to guarantee workers a minimum standard of paid sick days is advancing in Philadelphia. New York City‟s paid sick days bill has strong support in the City Council, although it has run into political roadblocks. And this week, advocates in Denver announced a paid sick days ballot initiative, and a campaign in support of a paid sick days bill in Seattle launched. Seven state legislatures are also considering paid sick days legislation this year.
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.
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.