41 million workers across the country don’t have access to paid sick leave, are forced to take time off or risk their jobs when they are ill

Healthy Families Act would help our workers, protect public health, and strengthen our economy 

More than two dozen senators now lined up in support

Senator Murray hears from business owners and workers in Olympia last August, when they met to discuss the Healthy Families Act.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave to use when they are sick, to care for a loved one, to obtain preventative care, or to address the impacts of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

“It is unacceptable that 41 million people across the country have to take time off – or risk losing their job – if they catch the flu, if their child is sick, or if they have to take care of a sick parent,” said Senator Patty Murray. “No one should have to choose between their health and their economic security, but our outdated policies are forcing too many workers to make that kind of choice. I’m proud Washington state continues to be a leader on this issue-- and it’s time our national policy catches up to ensure all hardworking families are able to care for themselves and loved ones when they need it the most.”  

Today, 41 million private sector workers across the country do not have access to paid sick days. 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 ill, to care for a sick family member, 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. Studies show that sick paid leave can reduce the spread of contagious diseases like the flu and a national paid sick days policy would reduce emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year.

Original Senate cosponsors include Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeffery A. Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Charles Schumer (D-NY).

See below for more information on the Healthy Families Act.


FACT SHEET: The Healthy Families Act

Today, 41 million private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick days. That forces many Americans to make the difficult choice of losing a day’s pay – and in some cases losing their job – or showing up to work sick and potentially spreading an  illness to others. Even when workers have personal sick days, those might not cover the times when a child is ill and needs to stay home from school. That forces many parents to make the impossible choice of caring for their family or risking their livelihood.

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to care for a family member and to address personal medical needs. This legislation will help workers and increase economic security, while taking an important step toward making sure our economy works for all families, not just the wealthiest few.

The Act will help families care for their loved ones and themselves.

  • Under this legislation, workers can earn up to 56 hours (seven days) of paid sick time. Workers earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
  • Workers can use this time to stay home and get well when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, to seek routine medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence.

Access to paid sick days will help protect public health.

  • Workers earning low wages are the least likely to have paid sick days, and are often unable to afford to take a day off when they are ill. This can pose public health risks because many low-wage jobs require interaction with the public, for example, caring for seniors or children, working in stores and hotels, or serving or preparing food in restaurants.
  • Research has shown that paid sick days can reduce the spread of contagious illnesses like the flu, reduce occupational injuries, result in more preventive cancer screenings and other preventive care, and reduce unnecessary visits to the emergency room. For example, the American Journal of Public Health found that the lack of paid sick days contributed to an additional 5,000,000 cases of influenza-like illness during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009.

Expanding access to paid sick days will help families, businesses, and the economy.

  • According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if all workers had access to paid sick days, emergency room visits would decline by 1.3 million visits a year, saving $1.1 billion annually. More than half of those savings would be to public health insurance programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • Nearly 20 states and localities have adopted policies that allow workers to earn paid sick days, including San Francisco, Seattle, and Connecticut, without posing adverse effects on businesses and the economy. Many employers in these localities expressed strong support for paid sick leave policies.

The Healthy Families Act provides important protections for workers and public health in a way that works for employers.

  • Small employers with fewer than 15 employees would not be required to provide paid sick days.
  • Employers that already provide this leave will not have to change their current policies, as long as their existing leave can be used for the same purposes described in the Act.
  • Employers can require workers to provide documentation supporting any request for leave longer than three consecutive days.