The Case for Paid Sick Days in Los Angeles

05/19/2015 03:07 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

A paid sick days policy for Los Angeles just makes sense. No one wants to think of our city nursing home attendants, child care providers, ticket-takers and sandwich makers having to come to work with the flu. And, if you're a parent like me, you can't imagine sending your small child out to school or day care with a fever.

Yet, right now, half of private sector workers in Los Angeles do not have access to a single paid sick day. The number for Latino workers is even higher at 60 percent. Many Los Angeles workers with no paid sick days are front-line service workers, often low-paid, who are in close contact with the public. Because they cannot afford to lose pay or risk being fired for taking time off when they or a family member is sick, many go to work when they should be home resting. This harms workers, their families and the public.

Paid sick days are a key component of a family's economic security. Without paid sick days, for a low-income family, going just 3.5 days without wages is equivalent to losing a month's worth of groceries -- a trade-off no worker should ever have to make. And, just like raising the minimum wage, access to paid sick days is a critical economic issue for women. Women still take on the majority of child and family care responsibilities, while making up the bulk of the low wage workforce.

I am a single mom of three and having paid sick days contributes to my family's health and well-being, our ability to pay the rent during flu season, and my peace of mind. I love my job and doing great work is important to me, but I'm glad I didn't have to think twice about missing work when my daughter woke up one evening with severe leg pains and had to be taken to the emergency room. Her dad and I were able to take the time needed to identify the problem without the added hardship of losing pay or putting off getting her the treatment she needed.

Paid Sick Days Help Cities Thrive

San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and a growing number of cities across the country have shown us that communities, employers and workers all benefit from the adoption of paid sick leave policies. Most of these cities provide for earned leave beyond the three days provided in the new California law that takes effect in July.

San Francisco has had paid sick days since 2006 and six in seven employers report no negative impact on profitability. The city has experienced better job growth than five surrounding counties without earned sick days. Even the chief business lobbyist who fought against the San Francisco bill subsequently told Businessweek it's "the best public policy for the least cost. Do you want your server coughing over your food?"

Economists say job retention policies like paid sick days actually help strengthen the economy. Earned sick leave reduces staff turnover, which saves businesses money. Replacing workers typically costs 20 to 200 percent or more of a worker's annual compensation. Working while sick costs our national economy $160 billion in lost productivity.

As the Los Angeles City Council moves forward on landmark legislation raising the minimum wage to $15.25, the city's parents, caregivers and the workers they come in contact with every day want them to know that paid sick days are a critical element needed to boost our standard of living, and one that will benefit the city as a as a whole.

Jenya Cassidy is the Director of the California Work & Family Coalition, a project of Next Generation.