The Healthy Families Act Helps Low-Income Workers
Jul 28, 2009
Federal lawmakers recently introduced The Healthy Families Act, a bill that 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.
This measure is critical for all workers, especially low-wage earners, who all too often are forced to choose between losing needed income-and often their job security-or tending to their own or their family's health needs. Currently, there is no state or federal law that protects private sector workers on days that they are sick or their families need care. In fact, nearly half of all private-sector U.S. workers do not receive any sick time and 70 percent do not have sick days to care for sick children. It's worse for low-wage earners. Fully 77 percent of workers in the bottom wage quartile-nearly 24 million-do not have any paid sick leave.
Parents with paid time off are more than five times as likely than other parents to stay home with sick children, which helps with recovery, yet only 41 percent of working mothers have paid sick days.
There is a movement afoot, though, that recognizes how important paid sick time is to work-life balance and quality of life. Besides the pending federal legislation, 14 states have introduced measures that would require employers to provide paid sick days. Some cities are ahead of the curve. For example, San Francisco in 2005 became the first city to guarantee paid sick days for all its workers. And in 2008, Washington D.C. passed paid sick days standards and offered paid safe days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Residents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin passed a similar ordinance in 2008. However, a Milwaukee county circuit judge struck down the ordinance and it is now pending appeal.