Worker’s Correspondence

Every day, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are really too sick to work trudge off to their jobs, in spite of their fevers, sore throats, headaches, sprains and strains. Hundreds of thousands of children, after receiving a dose of Tylenol or Motrin, are sent off to day care or school with similar ailments, when they should be home under the watchful eye of a parent.

These things happen because more than half of all Americans get no paid time off for their own or their families’ illnesses or injuries. They are forced into choosing between a paycheck (and sometimes even keeping their jobs) or staying home to care for themselves or their children.

Needless to say, someone who isn’t feeling well isn’t a very productive worker. To look at it more humanely, no one should be forced to choose between their health, or their children’s health, and keeping their job.

From a public health standpoint, do we really want people with fevers serving the public or standing next to other workers on the job? Do we really want sick children mingling with other children in schools and day care? (As we know, children are masters at mingling!)

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced the Healthy Families Act (S 910 and HR 1542), which would guarantee paid sick leave for all who work for businesses which employ 15 or more workers. The act calls for seven days of paid sick leave per year for full-time (30 or more hours per week) workers and a pro-rated amount of sick time for part-time (at least 20 hours per week) workers. The sick leave can be used for personal illness or the illness of a family member.

Senators and representatives should be inundated with calls asking them to sponsor the Healthy Families Act (S 910 and HR 1542). Its passage will have a positive impact on families as well as the health of the public at large.