The availability of paid sick leave is a rare benefit for too many Americans. Upwards of 44 million workers in this country still can’t take a paid day off to recover from illness or care for a family member or loved one. Many risk their jobs by even taking unpaid leave.
That’s not right. Thankfully, some in government are beginning to do something about it. Last week, the Vermont Legislature approved a bill that would make it the fifth U.S. state to mandate paid sick leave for workers. And this week, the Obama administration introduced proposed rules that would expand paid sick time for some 828,000 employees of companies who do business with the federal government.
U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, in a blog posting yesterday, said while the proposal isn’t as broad as he would like, it is still an essential step that will expand dignity on the job for everyday Americans.
“Paid sick leave isn’t just the right thing to do for working families,” he wrote. “It’s essential to the health of our workforce and the health of our economy. I’m looking forward to a day when working moms and dads can afford to stay home with their sick kids, when a younger worker can take paid sick leave to care for an ailing grandparent and a husband can use his earned sick time to care for his wife – all without fear of losing a day’s pay or their livelihood. Today, we’re one step closer to making it happen.”
The federal rulemaking, which is implementing an executive order issued earlier by President Obama, would require federal contractors allow their workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave every year. That mandate means 437,000 workers currently without sick leave would receive it, while an additional 391,000 would see their paid sick leave increased.
Meanwhile, in Vermont, the legislation there requires all employers to provide workers with three paid sick days per year in 2017 and 2018. Beginning in 2019, that number rises to five paid sick days. Employees who work less than 18 hours a week or 21 weeks a year, workers under the age of 18 and some types of employees, such as seasonal workers or substitute teachers, are exempt from the requirement. Gov. Peter Schumlin (D) said he will sign the measure.
It’s time for workers everywhere to have access to these basic benefits!