SEATTLE - More than half the people questioned in a new national survey
said they've either gone to work with a contagious illness or sent their
kids to school or child care sick, because they didn't have paid sick
leave and couldn't afford to stay home.
The University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center
found that 86 percent of people surveyed think workers should be able to
earn a minimum of seven paid sick days per year. Senior fellow and
survey director Tom Smith says employers have several ways to minimize
paid time off for illness.
"We found that many workers have only a very restricted or limited
version. They may not be able to use it for family members, or they may
have only a few days of paid time off, which has to cover not only sick
days, but vacations, jury duty, etc."
According to Smith, a majority of both Republicans (59 percent) and
Democrats (89 percent) said they'd support paid sick days as a federal
policy. Congress is considering this as part of the Healthy Americans
Act, which would allow both full and part-time workers to earn sick
days. Business groups who oppose the idea say it's too expensive,
especially for small companies.
In the state of Washington, 60 percent of full-time workers have no paid
time off for illness, although groups in Tacoma and Seattle are pushing
for local ordinances that would require employers to offer paid sick
days to all workers. It's been the law in San Francisco since 2007, and
Debra Ness, presdent of the National Partnership for Women and
, says it's working well.
"Not only is it working, but employment there remains stronger than in
neighboring counties that do not guarantee paid sick days, even through
this recession. And, our one-time opponents there are now actually
admitting that their fears were unfounded."
Ness says opponents of the San Francisco law were the Chamber of
Commerce and the local restaurant association. Her group sees paid sick
leave as a public health issue to prevent spreading disease, and to
allow workers to get treatment before their illnesses are serious enough
to require hospitalization.
The survey, sponsored by the nonprofit Public Welfare Foundation
is online at www.publicwelfare.org