Healthy Families Act and the Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions Act
Healthy Families Act - On May 18, 2009, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) reintroduced the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460) (HFA). Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Senate companion bill (S-1152) on May 21, 2009. The HFA would provide all employees at companies with 15 or more employees the ability to earn paid sick and safe days (7 days for those who work full-time, less for those who work fewer hours) to care for themselves or their family members. The days could be used to recover from routine illness, care for a sick family member, or seek services to recover from domestic violence.
Passage of the Healthy Families Act could dramatically improve the lives of low-wage working individuals. Nearly half of all private-sector U.S. workers (47 percent) are not provided any sick time and 70 percent do not have sick days to care for sick children. Fully 77 percent of workers in the bottom wage quartile--nearly 24 million--do not have any paid sick leave. Many workers who do have paid time off are permitted to use it only for their own illness, not to care for a sick family member: only one in three (30 percent) of low-wage workers have sick days to care for sick children. Paid sick days are good for public health and good for business as well. While some businesses may have responded to the ongoing H1N1 flu outbreak by providing time off for employees, the government is right to call attention to the public health concerns related to the flu-setting a labor standard floor that is essential. A minimum labor standard on paid sick days is critical to ensure that businesses, especially small businesses, have a level-playing field.
Because paid sick days are critical to public health and are good for business, it is not surprising that 21 of the world's 22 highly ranked countries in terms of economic and human development provide paid sick days to their employees. It is unfortunate that the United States is the only country in that group that has failed to adopt a national policy guaranteeing that workers receive paid sick days or paid leave.
CLASP and its coalition partners worked closely with Sen. Kennedy and Rep. DeLauro's staff to fashion provisions of the HFA to address some of the concerns of business leaders. On June 11, the House of Representatives' Education and Labor Committee's Workforce Protections Subcommittee held its first hearing on the HFA. On June 25, 2009, CLASP submitted written testimony to be added to the hearing record. It also led three other business owners to submit testimony as well.
The Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions Act - On May 7, 2009, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced the Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions (FIRST) Act (H.R. 2339). CLASP supports the FIRST Act, which would enable states to offer eligible workers a minimum of six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, to recover from a serious health condition or to care for a seriously-ill family member.
With no paid family leave policy in place, in the event of a family medical crisis or child birth, many workers are forced to take unpaid leave or quit their jobs, often resulting in considerable economic distress. The distress is exacerbated for low-wage workers, who often lack savings and access to any paid leave, including vacation or paid sick days. Paid family and medical leave would also help the millions of workers who cannot afford to take advantage of the unpaid leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Without some form of wage replacement, the FMLA's promise of job-protected leave is a chimera for too many women and men. In fact, 78 percent of employees who qualified for FMLA leave and needed to take the leave did not because they could not afford to go without a paycheck.
On June 11, the House of Representatives' Education and Labor Committee's Workforce Protections Subcommittee held a hearing on the FIRST Act. The bill currently has eighteen co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. (Statement for the Hearing Record House Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Workforce Protections)
 Vicky Lovell, "No Time to be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don't Have Paid Sick Leave," Institute for Women's Policy Research, Washington, DC, 20004.
 Jody Heymann et al., "Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries," Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2009.
 Debra Ness, Written testimony of Debra Ness. Hearing on the Family and Medical Leave Act, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Washington, DC: National Partnership for Women and Families. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/Testimony_of_Debra_Ness_final_041008.pdf?docID=3141
 DOL 2000 Report at 2-16.