DeLauro and Murray Push to Guarantee Paid Sick and Safe Days for Workers Nationwide
By Zoe Ziliak Michel
At a time when millions of Americans’ health insurance—and health—is imperiled by an attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), at least one bill introduced in Congress could have a positive impact on public health. Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA), which would give all workers access to sick days. The bill has far-reaching implications for the health of the nation, ensuring that workers would no longer have to choose between keeping their jobs and maintaining their economic security, on the one hand, and caring for their family’s health, on the other.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 41 million workers—many of whom work in low-wage jobs—lack paid sick days. As a result, restaurant workers prepare food while sick, risking their own and their customers’ health. Sick children who are sent to school find their recovery from illness is delayed and their peers’ health is threatened. Business productivity goes down, while employee turnover goes up.
But the HFA would curb these senseless burdens on working families, employers, and the economy. Under the Healthy Families Act (HFA), people working at companies and organizations with at least 15 employees would be able to earn up to seven paid sick and safe days per year. The days could be used to obtain preventive care or seek treatment for a medical problem, to care for an ill family member, or to seek services related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employees of smaller businesses would be able to earn the same number of unpaid but job-protected sick and safe days, meaning their employers could not fire them or otherwise retaliate for their use of the days.
HFA was reintroduced with its largest number of co-sponsors ever—31 in the Senate and 108 in the House. This strong Congressional support mirrors the great momentum propelling the paid sick and safe days movement nationwide. Since 2006, seven states and over two dozen cities and counties have passed laws requiring employers to provide paid sick days. (Nearly two dozen of the jurisdictions include safe days provisions.) Further, thanks to the U.S. Department of Labor’s final rule codifying an executive order from former President Obama, all workers on federal contracts that have taken effect since January 1, 2017, now earn paid sick and safe days as well. This final rule alone will eventually affect about 1.15 million workers. The laws thus far have led to reduced spread of illness while helping businesses save money. HFA will build on the success of these state and local laws to improve the health and financial security of tens of millions more workers.
CLASP strongly supports the Healthy Families Act and urges Congress to act swiftly to pass this legislation.