Bennet, Murray Highlight New Support for Legislation Guaranteeing Paid Sick Days

New state-by-state data shows millions of American workers still cannot take time to recover from illness or care for a family member without jeopardizing their paycheck

Washington, DC - Support is growing in the U.S. Senate for a bill that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave, as newly-released data shows that the lack of such access continues to affect tens of millions of families across the country.

The United States is the only developed country that does not have a national requirement guaranteeing workers access to paid sick leave. As a result, more than 43 million people nationwide - close to 40 percent of the workforce - cannot earn paid sick time, including 80 percent of the lowest-wage workers.

Yesterday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) announced that since it was introduced in mid-February, eight U.S. Senators have added their names to the Healthy Families Act (S. 497), a bill that would allow workers to earn days to recover from an illness, to care for a sick family member, to obtain preventive care, or to address the effects of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault, without losing a day's pay.

Bennet is one of the newest cosponsors of the Healthy Families Act. The National Partnership for Women & Families estimates that 816,067 private sector workers in Colorado cannot earn paid sick days.

"Colorado workers shouldn't have to choose between caring for a sick child and losing a day's pay - or even their job. Too often, they have no other options," Bennet said. "This bill gives middle-class families more economic security by allowing them to care for themselves and their family members when they're sick or in a medical emergency. It will provide workers time to get healthy so they can be more productive and effective when they return to work. It will also prevent their coworkers from contracting and spreading illnesses in the workplace - keeping health care costs down and productivity up."

"More Senators than ever have added their name to the bill that would expand access to paid sick days so workers would no longer have to choose between losing money out of their paycheck or caring for themselves or their sick child," said Senator Murray, Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the lead sponsor of the Healthy Families Act. "It's time for Republicans to work with Democrats to make paid sick days a reality for millions of working families."

During debate in March on the Senate's FY 2016 budget, a bipartisan group of 61 senators voted to pass an amendment mirroring the Healthy Families Act, a further sign of the broad base of support for these vital workers' protections. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 85 percent of the American public supports requiring employers to offer workers paid sick days - and new laws establishing paid sick day requirements are now or will soon be in place in 24 states, cities, and counties nationwide.

This week, the National Partnership for Women and Families released new state-by-state data illuminating the potential impact of these protections, including the number of workers who cannot earn paid sick days and the number of children who live in families in which both parents work. Too often, even if workers have access to paid sick leave for themselves, they are unable to take paid sick days to care for a sick child. For these workers, the decision to take time off from work to recover from an illness or to care for a sick child or family member is a choice between their health and their financial security; according to the National Partnership, for a typical family lacking access to paid sick days, 3.5 days lost to illnesses like the flu equate to a month's worth of groceries.

The Healthy Families Act would establish a national paid sick days standard, allowing workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. Workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees would earn up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days each year to be used for the same reasons, unless their employers choose to offer paid sick days. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

If all workers had access to paid sick days, 1.3 million emergency room visits could be prevented each year, saving $1.1 billion annually in costs to individuals, private insurers, and public programs such as Medicare and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"Families, communities, businesses and our country are suffering because millions of workers cannot earn paid sick days, and even more have no paid sick days they can use to care for their children - for a daughter who falls off the jungle gym and needs emergency care, or a son who has a fever and needs to see a doctor," said National Partnership for Women & Families Vice President Vicki Shabo. "For low-wage workers, the situation is even worse. The only way to provide paid sick days to all workers in this country, no matter where they live or what job they hold, is by passing the Healthy Families Act. It's what the nation wants and what Congress should do."

Hundreds of organizations including women's, civil rights, healthy, children, faith-based and labor groups have endorsed the Healthy Families Act, recognizing the vital need for national legislation guaranteeing these protections for workers and their families.

Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of YWCA USA, said: "Many of the women served at YWCAs across the country are without paid sick days. We see women everyday who are working very hard to make ends meet only to be thrown off course when a stomach bug or a sick child causes them to miss a few days of work and lose desperately needed income. We need paid sick days for all workers - this can't wait any longer."

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