“Family Values at Work” documents the consequences on workers, families, businesses and the nation when family values end at the workplace door. The document details the wrenching stories of workers suffering from the lack of family-friendly work rules, summarizes key research, and lays out a policy agenda modest compared to that of other advanced nations yet urgently needed by U.S. workers and their families. These policies include a minimum number of paid sick days for routine illnesses as well as a family leave insurance fund to provide income during longer-term leaves for a new baby or serious health condition.
Paid sick leave is rapidly becoming the next big legislative trend. The first paid sick leave mandate was implemented in San Francisco in February 2001, but already many other cities and states have followed suit with proposals of their own. And there are currently two proposals at the national level. While the details vary, these proposals all typically allow employees to take paid sick leave for their own illness or to provide care for a sick child, spouse, or other relative (and, in the case of San Francisco, domestic partner, or “designated person”). The amount of leave typically averages about 7 days a year.
Because this is a relatively new policy, there is little research examining its effects. Proponents focus on two key arguments: one moral and one social. The moral argument is that low-wage entry-level employees should be able to take sick days without worrying about losing income—“no one should have to go to work sick for fear of losing their job or being unable to pay their bills.” The social argument is that a sick leave policy benefits society as well—“we, as a society, do not want the people serving our food or taking care of our children coming to work sick and potentially passing their illness along.” Each of these arguments packs a punch and neither is, strictly speaking, wrong, but neither tells the whole story either.
ACORN’s Healthy Workers, Healthy Families Campaign calls on businesses to provide workers with a fair number of paid sick days a year. We also call on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws guaranteeing that all workers have paid sick days.
Nearly half of American private-sector workers have no guaranteed paid sick days – yet everyone gets sick and everyone needs time to get well. Workers also have families and responsibilities to care for sick children and other relatives who need them.
ACORN called 50 of the largest food service and retail companies operating in America and asked if they provided their hourly workers with paid sick days. Despite the close contact with the public that characterizes jobs in these industries, a near-majority of the companies for which we gathered information were clear that they did not offer paid sick days to hourly employees.
Source: Robin J. Samuel and Laura M. Wilson, Employee Benefit Plan Review, May 2007
It is a familiar problem. You hear a sneeze in the next cubicle, and you know it is only a matter of time before cold germs reach you and others working nearby. The cycle continues endlessly, as employees who come down with common colds or mild illnesses elect to work rather than stay home, and thereby continue the spread of illness through the workplace. A new buzzword has been coined to describe this phenomenon: Presenteeism. According to Wordspy.com, “presenteeism” is defined as “the feeling that one must show up for work even if one is too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive.” Recent studies indicate that presenteeism is a growing problem for U.S. employers, prompting human resources professionals to ask whether the hidden costs of the phenomenon must be addressed.
Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 24 no. 5, March 1, 2007
In November, voters in San Francisco approved proposition F, a bill that requires employers within San Francisco’s city and county limits to provide an hour of sick leave to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees for every 30 hours worked. While it may be tempting to dismiss the law as something only a liberal city such as San Francisco would pass, doing so would be a mistake. Similar laws have been introduced in state legislatures and a federal paid sick leave bill is pending before Congress.