Both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators have signed onto the “Health Families Act,” the latest version of federal legislation that seeks to require employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. From a press release:
U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet joined 36 of their Senate colleagues to introduce the Healthy Families Act, paid sick days legislation to help keep workers, communities and our economy healthy. The bill is similar to a new Colorado state law expanding paid sick leave to all employees.
Today, one in four workers still do not have access to paid sick days. For these 32 million private sector workers—who are disproportionately women and people of color—getting sick or having to care for a sick loved one means having to choose between losing a paycheck or going into work sick and risking the health of their colleagues and their community. This inequity isn’t just bad for workers—it’s bad for our public health and our economy too, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Recent studies show that requiring employers to provide paid sick days reduces the spread of flu-like illnesses and reduces emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year. Another study showed that the emergency paid leave provision passed in 2020 helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by roughly 15,000 cases per day…
…The Healthy Families Act would allow workers at businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick leave each year. This would allow workers to stay home when they are sick or to care for a sick family member—as well as to seek preventive medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Businesses that already provide paid sick leave would not have to change their current policies, as long as they meet the minimum standards of the Healthy Families Act.
Congressional Democrats have tried for years to pass legislation requiring some sort of paid leave for workers, which has left states to do much of the heavy lifting on an issue that has become increasingly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado lawmakers passed legislation last year that requires all but the smallest businesses in the state to provide paid sick leave to employees. This week, New Mexico lawmakers became the 10th state to add some sort of paid family and sick leave requirements.
A national family leave program is still critically important for the rest of the country. Just this week, State Senators in Texas approved legislation that BANS cities and counties from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.