President Barack Obama will announce an executive order on Monday that will require all federal contractors to grant at least seven days of paid sick leave. He will also urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2013, but hasn’t moved since being referred to the Subcommittee on Workplace Protections in April 2013. It would require all companies with more than 15 employees to allow at least seven days of paid sick leave.
Besides providing time for employees to recover from illness, those sick days could also be used to access preventative care, take care of a sick family member, seek assistance related to a domestic violence incident, or to go to school meetings when their child has health problems or special needs. The announcement will be made at a rally in Boston.
As many as 40 percent of private sector workers and 70 percent of low-income workers don’t have any paid sick days. Sick leave is an important labor issue for women in particular, since female family members are often the ones who spend more time taking care of children, parents, and other family members. Women who took on many of these caretaking responsibilities were also less likely to be employed, while men’s employment status remained the same, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Working women, especially Latino women, low-wage workers, and employees with less formal education are the least likely to have access to paid sick leave and family leave, according to 2014 research published in the medical journal The Gerontologist. Hispanic workers have less access to paid sick leave than other any other racial group, at 43 percent, compared with 62 percent of Asian workers, 61 percent of African American workers, and 59 percent of white workers. They also rarely have access to unpaid leave, according to The Center for American Progress.
Although there isn’t a federal law requiring paid sick leave, there has been progress on the state and local level. New York City, Jersey City, New Jersey, and Portland, Oregon passed laws allowing for paid sick leave in 2013. More recently, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania passed a law requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to provide five paid sick days. Seattle, San Francisco, and Connecticut also provide paid sick leave, and there is evidence that job growth has actually improved after the laws took effect.
Seattle employers said they support paid sick leave, at 70 percent, with 45 percent saying they are very supportive, according to an audit from the Seattle Office of the City Auditor, which worked with the University of Washington. San Francisco employers have also been supportive of paid sick leave, a 2011 Institute for Women’s Policy Research report shows.