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Family Advocates Call for Paid Sick Days as HHS Launches “National Influenza Vaccination Week”

January 11, 2010

For Immediate Release:

January 11, 2009

Contact:

Ellen Bravo, Executive Director, 414-916-7078

Washington, DC: Today Family Values @ Work – a network of 14 state coalitions that supports strong health and family policies in the workplace – called on federal lawmakers to observe “National Influenza Vaccination Week,” January 10-16, by supporting a critical public health measure to slow the spread of flu: paid sick days.

“As we encourage people to get flu shots, we must remember that parents sometimes need time off to keep themselves and their families healthy – without fear of losing their job or income,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work. “Whether it’s taking the time to get a vaccine, or staying home to care for a sick child – meaningful inoculation means giving people the tools to be healthy. Paid sick days are a reasonable, modest protection.”

“When workers go to work sick, their co-workers pay a price – by getting sick themselves,” said Bravo. “Employers pay a price too: their workers aren’t as productive as normal, and more will miss work as the flu spreads. Letting sick workers stay home will make all workers healthier.”

As Denver business owner Terri Monley put it, “People get sick. They deserve the time to get better…. Doing things this way is good for our employees. It’s good for our business. And it’s good for our country…. The last thing [families] should have to worry about is balancing their top two demands: their responsibilities at home and their responsibilities at work.”

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated on its official flu.gov website that “Employers should encourage employees that are ill with pandemic influenza or are exposed to ill family members to stay home and should consider flexible leave policies for their employees in these circumstances.”

“Public health officials have repeatedly cautioned that the best way to stop the spread of H1N1 is for workers to stay home if they are sick and for parents to keep children who are sick home from school. To do that, they need the protection and encouragement that comes with paid sick days,” said Bravo.

The Healthy Families Act, Introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) in the House of Representatives last May, would require businesses with 15 or more employees to provide up to seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave per year.

Paid sick days are just one of the modest, minimum standards Family Values @ Work urges federal officials to enact to ensure workers the flexibility to meet their family needs. To read more about important family-friendly workplace standards, including a guaranteed minimum number of paid sick days, view the in-depth report by Family Values @ Work, “Family Values @ Work: It’s About Time,” which documents the consequences on workers, families, businesses and the nation when family values end at the workplace door – and the benefits of new standards like paid sick days, that bring institutions in sync with the realities of today’s families.

“You shouldn’t have to risk your job to take care of your family, and you shouldn’t have to put your family at risk just to do your job,” said Bravo.

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