Family Values @ Work

Letters: Denying paid sick leave is wrong on all levels

March 14, 2013

QUICK – you have to choose: money for groceries, or helping your child recover from a bout of illness. You can’t do both. What do you do?

It’s a terrible decision, one no parent should have to make.

But nearly 200,000 hardworking Philadelphians are forced to make that decision on a regular basis. With no paid sick days at what is often a low-wage job, these parents must choose between forgoing a crucial day’s worth of wages or caring for their children when sick. And for the parents of a disabled child, this decision can affect their child’s whole future.

City Council is set to vote this week on Councilman Bill Greenlee’s paid-sick-days bill. It would allow private-sector workers to earn a minimum of up to five sick days per year, based on how long they’ve worked for their company.

This bill has been carefully crafted to be easy to implement for small-business owners – those that already arrange for workers to earn sick days would be unaffected, there are protections against abuse and small mom-and-pop businesses would be exempted.

For those workers who would be covered, this bill could represent a crucial level of job security. For parents of disabled and chronically ill children, this bill would mean something more, and for that reason we urge its support.

Children with disabilities, with conditions such as autism, or with chronic illness such as juvenile diabetes need frequent visits to medical specialists for optimal care. For children with developmental disabilities, heavy parental involvement in the early stages is crucial to long-term treatment success. Parents need the time with specialists to train for continued therapy at home.

Often these specialists are available only during regular business hours. For a parent without paid sick days, that means loss of income and possibly the loss of a job.

Research shows that those families without access to sick days are also the ones least likely to be able to afford unpaid time off. Many are in low-wage jobs. Add to that the inevitable medical bills and these families are often riding the edge of financial crisis.

When these families are forced to do without, their spending power is removed from our economy. Their employer will have a far more distracted and far less productive worker. The lack of paid sick days means more turnover, more time wasted in training new employees, and therefore more unemployment.

These are parents trying to do the right thing – provide for their family and care for their family’s health. Without paid sick days, they can’t do both. Protecting them from that agonizing choice isn’t just good policy – it’s the right thing to do.

Merle Kamen