By Sylvia Hsieh
Washington — A bill that would require employers to give workers paid sick leave has been reintroduced in Congress after it was first introduced in 2004.
The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, totaling up to seven days of paid leave.
Employees can use this time to stay home and get well while they are ill, to care for a sick family member, to get preventative or diagnostic treatment, or to get help if they are victims of domestic violence.
Employers with fewer than 15 employees are exempt and employers that already provide paid sick leave will not need to change their policies as long as their existing leave allows workers to use sick time for the same purposes described in the Act. Employers may require documentation for sick leave longer than three consecutive days.
According to a press release by the sponsors of the bill, 40 million Americans do not have paid sick days, meaning they cannot take time off work if they get sick or need to care for a sick child or elderly relative. Two-thirds of lower-income private sector workers do not have a single paid sick day, and the percentage is even higher among workers in certain industries.
“Too many of our workers, especially those who work in the food service industry, where health is so critical, are unable to do this. And simply showing up to work when you are sick, known as ‘presenteeism,’ costs employers a staggering $160 billion a year in lost productivity,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., one of the sponsors, in the press release.
Her co-sponsor is Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
The bill was originally introduced in 2004 by DeLauro and the late Senator Ted Kennedy.