Paid Sick Time, Child Care Providers, and Flu Season

In preparation for this year’s flu season, health organizations have been exceptionally vocal about prevention, symptoms, and care for the seasonal and H1N1 flu (see our earlier blog post with tips and resources for early education programs). These same organizations have also informed the public that the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is to stay home from work, school, child care, or other public places if you are sick. The CDC recommends staying at home until 24 hours after your fever is gone. But what if your job security depends on coming into work everyday, no matter what? What if your job doesn’t offer paid sick time and your child gets sick? These are the types of questions that the National Partnership for Women and Families address regularly on their blog. In a recent entry, staffer Karen Pesapane discussed the lack of paid sick days for professionals in the child care industry. In it she wrote:

“I know the child care industry does not typically provide workers with paid sick days. Case in point, my mother recently retired after 25 years of teaching child care in Connecticut. She told me recently how relieved she is that she retired when she did, because she never had any sick days. She shudders to think how any teachers in the same situation this flu season will not be able to follow the CDC’s advise and stay home when they are sick.”

Recent proposed federal legislation addresses the difficult situation many individuals face when deciding between caring for themselves (or a family member) and getting paid or maintaining employment. The Healthy Families Act (H.R.2460/S.1152) was introduced in May by Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) and the late Senator Edward Kennedy (MA). The bill would allow certain employees to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for each 30 hours of work that they complete-up to a minimum of 56 hours per year. Only employers who employ 15 or more individuals each working day for 20+ work weeks a year are required to follow the terms of the bill. Wisconsin cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Moore and Baldwin, and Senator Feingold.

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