WASHINGTON D.C. (WSET) — Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, alongside his Democratic colleagues, has introduced legislation aiming to guarantee paid sick leave for workers across the United States. The Healthy Families Act of 2023 would enable employees to accumulate up to seven paid days of sick leave, which can be utilized for personal illness, accessing preventive care, caring for sick family members, or attending school meetings related to a child's health condition or disability.
Currently, the U.S. lacks provisions for paid time off for short-term illnesses and paid leave for family and medical needs or emergencies.
Kaine emphasized the significance of this bill, stating, "Americans shouldn't have to forgo pay if they need to stay home when they're sick or care for a sick family member. This bill would finally help guarantee paid sick leave to workers, and I urge my colleagues to pass it."
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 34 million workers in the U.S. do not have any form of paid sick leave, including 25% of the private sector workforce and 9% of the public sector workforce.
Employees without paid sick leave are three times more likely to delay or completely forego essential healthcare for themselves and nearly twice as likely to neglect medical care for their families compared to those with paid sick days, according to research published in Health Affairs. Conversely, one study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals workers who have access to paid sick leave are 28% less likely to experience nonfatal occupational injuries. Additionally, employers who offer paid sick leave witness a 25% reduction in workforce turnover, one study found.
The Institute for Women's Policy Research conducted a study indicating that implementing a universal paid sick days policy could lead to a decrease in preventable emergency room visits, resulting in annual cost savings of $1.1 billion. This includes $500 million in savings for public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
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The key provisions of the Healthy Families Act of 2023 include:
The bill was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and in addition to Kaine, the bill was cosponsored by 40 other Democrat senators. A companion legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives.
More than 120 organizations endorsed the Healthy Families Act of 2023; a full list of endorsements can be found here. The full text of the bill can be read below: