How many times have you heard someone coughing, sneezing, and snotting away at work and wondered why they didn’t just stay home? Did you wince every time they coughed? Were you scared of getting sick yourself? Did you get sick? People come in to work while sick (and send sick kids off to school) for a number of reasons, but for many it is financial: they simply cannot afford to take an unpaid day off work. That may soon change.
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation that would provide California workers with paid sick days. AB 1522 would require employers to provide paid sick days to workers who have worked for at least 90 days. The paid sick days would accrue at one hour for every 30 hours worked, at a cap of 24 hours (3 days) per year. The sick days could be used to care for family members who are ill or be used for leave related to domestic violence of sexual assault.
While one can expect some in the business community to label this bill a “job killer” that we can not afford, the truth is that we as a society cannot afford not to provide paid sick leave to workers. Paid sick leave offers the following benefits:
- Reduced spread of colds and viruses in the workplace as sick workers who could not otherwise afford to take off could stay home, keeping people healthier and workplace productivity up;
- Reduced sickness among children, as sick children whose parents could not otherwise afford to take the day off could stay home with them;
- Reduced risk of transmitting colds and viruses to members of the public by those in jobs that involve interactions with the public, such as service and restaurant workers;
- Greater public health as those who are sick can take the time off to go to doctors’ appointments and seek treatment;
- Reduced spending on healthcare as those who might otherwise have to go to emergency rooms and urgent care facilities after-hours can instead make appointments during regular business hours; and
- Protections for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault who might otherwise risk losing their jobs or be unable to seek treatment without paid time off.
Paid sick leave has been a success in San Francisco and other cities that offer it. Despite our best efforts, we will all get sick some time. Passing a paid sick leave law will protect us when we do get sick and prevent us from getting sick by keeping our workplaces (and schools) healthy.
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