Your child wakes up one morning and doesn’t feel well. You wish you could stay home with her, but if you miss work you will lose a day’s pay – or risk being fired. Your family is already struggling to make ends meet. So you bury the guilt, give your child over-the-counter medicine to reduce her fever for a few hours, and send her to school. There, she exposes her classmates and teachers to her flu bug. Soon, they too get sick.

Scenarios like this take place every day in our nation’s homes, because 94 million workers in this country do not have a single paid sick day they can use to care for a sick child. 57 million private sector workers do not have a paid sick day they can use to recover from their own illness. If they stay home, they lose a day’s pay. It’s an impossible choice.

The problem is especially serious for workers in low-wage jobs. Workers in health care, food preparation and child care are among those disproportionately without paid sick days. When they’re ill on the job, they spread infections to sick and elderly patients, restaurant and cafeteria patrons, babies and toddlers in daycare centers.

Workers without paid sick days miss the chance to get mammograms and prostate exams, and take their kids for immunizations and check-ups, because they can’t take a few hours off work. Does your doctor see patients at night or on weekends? Mine doesn’t.

Right now, no federal or state law ensures that workers will have the paid sick days they need. That’s not compassionate. It’s not family-friendly. And it’s not right.

It’s also bad for workers, bad for families, bad for businesses and bad for our economy. Experts say that if workers had just seven paid sick days per year, our national economy would experience a net savings of $8.1 billion per year.

We can help stop this public health crisis by supporting the Healthy Families Act, now before Congress. It would guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days to recover from illness or care for a sick family member.

Speaking out for the Healthy Families Act is easier than ever. Beginning on Friday, February 29, the National Partnership for Women & Families is holding an online rally in support of the bill. Join the rally at to learn more about paid sick days, and urge your Senators and Representative to support this legislation.

Everyone gets sick. Not everyone has time to get better.

Debra L. Ness is President of the National Partnership for Women & Families, .

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