|EVERYONE GETS SICK. NOT EVERYONE HAS TIME TO GET BETTER. |
Without paid sick days, millions of workers are forced to decide whether to go to work sick or lose pay in order to stay home and get better. Working parents face the dilemma of deciding what to do when their child is sick but they have no paid time off from work. Do they stay home with their child and lose pay, or risk their job? Or, do they send their sick child to school?
Unfortunately, nearly half of workers (48 percent) don’t have a single paid sick day to recover from a common illness like the cold or flu. And staying home is not an option for the 94 million working people who do not have paid sick days to care for a sick child or family member. As a result, parents have no choice but to send their children to school sick—prolonging recovery time and spreading illness.
The lack of paid sick days is a public health concern. Workers who interact with the public every day are much less likely to have paid sick days. Only 22 percent of food and public accommodation workers have any paid sick days, for example. Workers in child care centers, retail clerks, and nursing home workers also disproportionately lack paid sick days.
Workers want to be responsible on the job and they want to care for their families. In more than three in four of today’s families, both parents work for pay—and the typical couple in America now works close to 90 hours per week. But our policies lag desperately behind this reality, and families are struggling as a result.
Currently, no federal or state laws require employers to guarantee paid sick days to working people. San Francisco, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee have passed ordinances requiring that private-sector employers provide paid sick days. More than a dozen cities and states are working to pass paid sick days laws to make this basic labor standard a right for many more workers. But illness knows no geographic boundaries, and access to paid sick days should not depend on where a person happens to live and work.
Paid sick days is a basic labor standard like the minimum wage. As with the minimum wage, a federal minimum standard of paid sick days that protects all workers would establish a floor, with states free to go above that standard as needed to address particular needs of their residents.
At the federal level, the Healthy Families Act, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, is gaining momentum this Congress. The Healthy Families Act would give workers the chance to earn up to seven paid sick days per year to recover from an illness, care for a sick family member, or seek assistance related to domestic violence.
For more information, visit PaidSickDays.org.