New Bill Will Ensure Paid Sick Leave

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
November 9, 2009

In an effort to control the spread of the H1N1 virus, new legislation will guarantee five paid sick days for a worker directed to stay home because of a contagious illness such as swine flu.

The bill, called the Emergency Influenza Containment Act, was announced last week by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. The House Education and Labor Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the legislation next week.

"Sick workers advised to stay home by their employers shouldn't have to choose between their livelihood, and their co-workers' or customer's health," said Miller in a statement. "This will not only protect employees, but it will save employers money by ensuring that sick employees don't spread infection to co-workers and customers, and will relieve the financial burden on our health system swamped by those suffering from H1N1."

The statement pointed out that at least 50 million American workers lack paid sick leave. In addition, the National Partnership for Women and Families estimated that the economy loses $180 billion in productivity every year when sick employees come to work.

The bill would apply to full-time and part-time employees in businesses with at least 15 workers, and would not affect employers that already provide at least five days of paid sick leave.

Although earlier reports indicated that paid sick leave legislation would likely be held up by health care reform, Miller said in a telephone briefing that he hoped to bring the bill to the floor as soon as possible. "The influenza isn't waiting for the legislative calendar," he was quoted as saying in The New York Times.

The Times also clarified that workers would only qualify for the sick leave if employers sent or advised them to go home. Employees who decided to stay home on their own because of sickness would not be guaranteed paid sick days.

The Washington Post reports that the National Small Business Association, which has not officially commented about the legislation, has in the past been against similar proposals, saying that such policies ultimately harm business owners.

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