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The Healthy Families Act Introduced in Congress

May 13, 2011

Millions of Americans working without paid sick days face the impossible choice between caring for their health and that of their family, and keeping their paycheck or job. At a time when many families are worried about their financial security, the threat of losing a job or needed wages forces many workers to go to their jobs even though they are ill.

The lack of paid sick days poses a risk to public health. Many of the workers without paid sick days are in food service and health care jobs where illness can be spread to those they work with and serve. At no time was this clearer than during the H1N1 epidemic, when 8 million Americans went to work with the flu – in turn infecting another 7 million people with the virus.

Take Desiree for example.  She stayed home – without pay – to care for her young children when they caught the H1N1 virus.  But when rent was due, she and her husband were short.  “We’re trying to pay down our debts and get our family on steady financial ground, but taking unpaid time off when our kids are sick sets us back,” she said.

But the lack of paid sick days is more than just a public health crisis – it is an economic crisis.  As hard-working Americans are fired for being sick, they add to the growing unemployment rates and keep our economic recovery from moving forward.  

Lourdes, a food service worker, lost her job following a workplace injury.  After she took time off to recover from a severe burn, the single mom of four kids was told there wasn’t a job to return to.

There is a solution.  

The Healthy Families Act introduced today by Congresswoman DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Harkin (D-IA), will allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from illness, access preventive care or look after a sick child or other family members.

This modest amount of sick leave will have a huge impact on millions of workers across the country, allowing them to take care of themselves and their loved ones when they are sick – without the fear of losing their jobs or needed wages.
And paid sick days will help workers without hurting business. In San Francisco and Washington, DC, where laws have already been enacted, studies have shown that workers are not only healthier but more productive when they have access to paid sick days.  Six in seven employers surveyed in San Francisco say that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability, and two-thirds of employers support the law.  

In order to strengthen jobs and the economy, safeguard public health and protect working families, we need paid sick days – and we need the Healthy Families Act.

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