Crucial Support for Paid Sick Days

Nov 13, 2009

By Lexer Quamie

The H1N1 epidemic has highlighted the critical need for federal legislation that ensures all workers can earn paid sick time.

The Administration and several lawmakers have voiced strong support for paid sick time.  In fact, during a November 10 Senate HELP committee hearing on H1N1 and paid sick days, Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris said: 

"While much has been done to help prepare for a national health emergency like 2009 H1N1, more is needed to help protect the economic security of working families who must choose between a pay check and their health and the health of their families.  That is why the Administration supports the Healthy Families Act and other proposals that advance workplace flexibility and protect the income and security of workers."

Currently, there is no federal law that requires employers to provide sick leave to their workers. There is also no law prohibiting an employer from disciplining or firing a worker who calls in sick.  This causes many sick workers, particularly low-wage workers who cannot afford to lose a day's wages, to go into work and risk spreading potentially dangerous viruses and illnesses, including H1N1.

The Administration's support is key to ensuring that more workers have a minimum standard.  The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460/S. 1152) would provide the security that workers need, allowing millions more working Americans to earn up to seven days per year of paid sick time to care for themselves or their families. Under the bill, an employer shall permit each employee to earn at least one hour of paid sick time for ever thirty hours worked.  It assures them job security when they take leave and provides income while they recuperate from illness, provide needed care to a family member, or seek services to recover from domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.  Under the Act, an employer that offers paid time off or a vacation policy that allows time off for sick days does not need to change its policy as long as employees can take paid time off as outlined in the Act.

Mr. Harris said, "[w]hile much has been done to help prepare for a public health emergency like the current 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the Administration believes that more must be done to help protect the economic security of working families."

Subcommittee Chairman, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct) emphasized his concern by stating that those who are sick with H1N1 have the difficult choice to "either go into work sick and risk infecting coworkers, or stay home and lose a day's pay."  Senator Dodd also announced that in addition to championing the Healthy Families Act, he would soon introduce emergency sick-leave legislation focused on the ongoing H1N1 pandemic flu outbreak. 

CLASP strongly encourages support for the Healthy Families Act.  CLASP has created Answers to Businesses' Frequently Asked Questions, which provides an overview of the Healthy Families Act in a Question and Answer form.  The tool is aimed at dispelling any myths about the legislation.

site by Trilogy Interactive