THE BLOG

The Healthy Families Act: For Healthy Families, Healthy Businesses and a Healthy Economy

02/13/2015 03:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) re-introduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA) on the heels of another city victory in Philadelphia today - legislation called for by President Obama in his State of the Union address that will establish a much-needed national paid sick days standard. This is great news for individuals across the country who are working hard but don't have access to this basic policy they need to manage job and family responsibilities, and that businesses and the economy need to thrive.

For families like Jamie Vander Loop-Taylor in Wisconsin, the lack of paid sick days and paid leave makes the decision to grow their families difficult. "While I am very lucky to have an extremely flexible employer, my daughter gets sick often and because my husband does not have paid sick leave, I am always the parent who stays home with her. That makes things challenging," she said.

At least 43 million private sector workers in the United States are in jobs where they are not allowed to earn paid sick days to use when they or a family member get sick. As a result, they are forced to choose between their health and a paycheck or even their jobs when they get the flu or other common and often contagious illnesses, or they need medical treatment or preventive care. At 9to5 we care deeply about pro-family workplaces with flexible policies that allow us to work and support and protect our families.

Specifically, the Healthy Families Act would:

  • Allow workers at businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year;
  • Guarantee workers at businesses with fewer than 15 employees up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days per year;
  • Allow workers to use their sick days to care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner or other individual related by blood or affinity; and
  • Provide funding for outreach and education around the worker rights guaranteed in the law.

The momentum on this issue is undeniable, as more and more elected officials and candidates are recognizing it's a winning economic issue - and a winning political issue. Sixty percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for candidates and elected officials who support these policies, with 74 percent of independents and 73 percent of Republicans supporting family friendly workplace policies such as paid sick days and a family leave insurance program.

After a historic year of wins in 2014, including a sweep of ballot measures in the midterm elections, three states and 20 cities now have passed paid sick days laws, and three states have paid family and medical leave programs. Today, Philadelphia became the second city in 2015 to enact paid sick days, following Tacoma, Wash; a statewide Maryland bill got a Senate hearing; and Vermont, Maryland, Oregon and New Jersey, among others, are engaged in robust campaigns.

These laws, when implemented, have had great success and enjoy broad popularity. Studies of paid sick days laws passed in San Francisco and Seattle have shown no negative impact on local economies, and both cities' economic growth outpaced neighbors that lacked earned sick time protection.

But too many working families still lack access to paid sick days, leaving public health and our economy at risk. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 60 percent of foodborne illnesses are caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food. Nearly one quarter of adults in the US have reported being fired or threatened with job loss for taking time off to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one. For a low-income family without paid sick days, going just 3.5 days without wages is the equivalent to losing a month's groceries.

For Vander Loop-Taylor, the lack of paid sick days and parental leave make raising a prosperous and healthy family difficult. "The struggle is very real for my family. I share my story not to complain but to paint a picture of the very real struggles for the middle class today," she said.