Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Passing the Healthy Families Act is Sensible

The swine flu (aka H1N1) appears to be milder than experts initially anticipated, but what if it had turned out to be much worse? What if people felt early symptoms coming on and had to chose between staying home from work or going in and exposing their coworkers? That could be problematic.
...millions of Americans can’t just stay home because they’re under the weather. When EPI looked at corporate sick leave policies in 2007 it found that some 43% of all private-industry workers have no paid sick days. Rather than the common sense precaution the President advices, these workers have a more difficult choice of going to work sick or staying home without pay and risk losing their jobs. In this current climate of high unemployment and even higher job insecurity, workers without any formal sick leave are even less likely to risk taking a day off.

Even more problematic, access to time off for health reasons is especially rare in low-paying jobs. In a 2006 compensation survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 79% of those earning more than $29.47 per hour had sick time, but only 16% of those earning less than $7.38 an hour had the same benefit.
The EPI also points out what a challenge it is for working parents if their children get sick.
The Huffington Post, citing data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, notes that fewer than one in three U.S. workers who do have sick leave are allowed to use that time to stay home and care for a sick child.
The Institute argues that "workers who lack paid sick time are more likely to go to work with a communicable illness, and parents who cannot stay home with a sick child are more likely to send them to school or day care." That just spreads germs around even more.

In Michigan, 1,725,000 residents — 48 percent of Michigan workers — are not able to take a paid sick day when they are ill.

It's time to revisit "the Healthy Families Act, which Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) plan to reintroduce in Congress next month. The bill would “guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.”

There is also an economic advantage to passing the legislation.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “when sick workers are on the job, it costs our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity. For employers, this costs an average of $255 per employee per year and exceeds the cost of absenteeism and medical and disability benefits.”
At least 139 other countries already provide some paid sick leave to workers as a matter of national law, and four out of five Americans think paid sick days should be a basic labor standard, so passing the legislation should be a no-brainer. This is clearly one of those "changes" Americans voted for last November.


abi said...

Kathy, I think the mistake you make is that you confuse this country for one that gives a damn about it's residents. ;-)

Kathy said...

Abi, that was pretty dumb of me, huh? Maybe we should all incorporate ourselves and see if that helps!