UBP blog

11/17/2009

New bill may require employers to give sick employees five paid leave days

Legislators introduced a bill last week that, if passed, would require employers to provide at least five paid sick days to employees sent home (and told to stay home) with a contagious illness. The bill is called the Emergency Influenza Containment Act and was introduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

If signed into law, the Emergency Influenza Containment Act would take effect 15 days after being signed and expire after 2 years.

Who would be impacted?

The Emergency Influenza Containment Act would apply to businesses with 15 or more employees. Only employees who are sent home with a contagious illness will be eligible for the five paid sick days. Employees who choose to stay home on their own would not be guaranteed paid sick days.

Why the Emergency Influenza Containment Act?

According to Representative Miller, the motivating factor behind this bill was the fact that over 40 million workers do not have paid sick days. 

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal the following:

  • 39% of all private-sector workers don’t have paid sick days
  • Of the lowest 25% of wage earners, 63% don’t have paid sick days

On top of all this, Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that a sick employee at work infects one in ten of his or her co-workers.

Will the Act really serve its purpose?

Or will more employers opt to let workers with a contagious illness simply stay at work because they can’t afford to pay them for five days of absence?

When employers simply cannot afford to lose vital employees for 5 days at a time, the best course of action to take is prevention. Encourage employees to wash hands frequently, cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze and keep all surfaces in the office germ free.

Here’s what one company is doing:

To keep up the staffing levels necessary for “business as usual” and keep employees out of work for shorter lengths of time, Fidelity Investments is offering employees just-in-case prescriptions of Tamiflu. They’ve contracted with a physicians group that will come to Fidelity’s headquarters and do screenings to see if (given each employee’s medical history) it would be appropriate to prescribe Tamiflu.

This could help employees by lessening both the duration and the severity of their flu (when taken on the first day of illness) so they can return to work sooner.

 

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