CHN: National Paid Sick Leave Legislation is Introduced in the House and Senate

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CA) held a press conference on June 15, 2004 to introduce the Healthy Families Act or 2004 (S 2520, HR 4575). The Kennedy/DeLauro bill would provide full-time employees at companies with 15 or more employees with seven paid sick days a year to be used for their own medical needs or to tend to the medical needs of a child, spouse or parent. Part-time employees would receive a share of paid sick days based on the number of hours they work per week. The Senate bill has six original cosponsors and the House bill has 51.
This legislation is designed to meet an urgent need among American workers. Almost half (47 percent) of the private sector workforce in the United States has no paid sick days. Low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable: over three in four (76 percent) workers in the bottom quarter in earnings have no paid sick leave, and among working parents with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, 41 percent have no paid leave of any kind.

Supporters of the bill argue creating a work environment that helps employees better balance the responsibilities of work and family also benefits employers by increasing work productivity and reducing employee turnover. According to a 2001 study published in the Journal of Managerial Issues, offering workers the option of taking time off when a family member is sick affects profits positively.

Another issue this legislation seeks to alleviate is “presenteeism.” Forty-four percent of human resources executives say that “presenteeism” – employees coming to work even though they are ill – is a problem in their companies. A recent Cornell study found that presenteeism costs $180 billion annually in lost productivity and may be more costly to employers than absenteeism due to illness.

Another recent study, by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, supports these earlier findings and argues that this legislation is beneficial to both employees and employers. According to the study, the benefits of supplying paid sick leave to employees include reduced contagion in workplaces, less absenteeism, increased worker productivity, faster recovery times, lower turnover rates, and lower health care costs.

Both bills have been referred to committee in the respective chambers, but it is unlikely either bill will make it to the floor during this Congress.

Labor and Employment