WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave to use when they are sick, to care for a sick family member, to obtain preventive care, or to address the impacts of domestic violence.
“A full forty percent of private-sector American workers have no access to paid sick days— meaning that they cannot miss a day of work without risking a day’s pay or even their job. When illness or emergencies strike, millions of hardworking people must make an impossible choice between the job they need and their or their families’ health and well-being,” said Harkin, who is chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Under the Healthy Families Act, workers would have the security of knowing that they will be able to tend to their families and themselves without losing their jobs or their income.
“Paid sick days are also a matter of public health,” Harkin continued. “Seventy percent of low-wage workers—including food service, hospitality, nursing home care and child care employees—have no paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act can help stop the spread of illness, especially by those workers who have frequent contact with members of the public.”
“Everyone should be able to take care of themselves and their families when they are sick without having to worry about losing their jobs,” said Representative DeLauro. “But in today’s America too many of our workers are unable to do this and the economy suffers because of it. Showing up to work when you are sick costs employers a staggering $160 billion a year in lost productivity and further spreads sickness to others. Ending the current system will ensure people no longer have to choose between their health—or their families—and their paycheck.”
The Harkin-DeLauro bill would allow workers to earn up to 56 hours or seven days of paid sick leave. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers that already provide paid sick time will not have to change their current policies, as long as their existing time can be used for the same purposes. Employers can also require workers to provide documentation supporting any request for leave longer than three consecutive days.
As HELP Committee Chairman, Harkin championed the prevention and wellness measures that are included in the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, Harkin introduced the Help America Act, which includes critical public health and prevention initiatives to fight chronic disease, encourage healthier schools, communities and workplaces, and improve physical activity opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
DeLauro is a longtime advocate for policies that benefit working Americans, and has introduced the Healthy Families Act in every Congress since 2004. Her home state of Connecticut was the first in the nation to ensure service workers have access to paid sick leave.
Fast Facts on Paid Sick Days