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By Hayden Parsley

Photo by White House photographer Pete Souza: President talks with workers at a café in Maryland about paid sick leave

January 16, 2015 (Washington D.C.) -- President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would require businesses to provide up to seven paid sick leave days each year for their employees. He also encourages state and local governments to do the same if Congress fails to act.

In addition, the President announced he is instructing federal agencies to allow up to six weeks of paid leave to take care of a new child or ailing family member. He is also asking Congress to pass a law that would allow an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.

The President will ask Congress for $2 billion to encourage states to develop paid leave programs as well.

Many states, such as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts already have paid leave programs, however over 43 million Americans are without any paid sick days. This often forces workers to come to work while ill, which risks infecting co-workers and customers. Lack of paid sick time also may force parents to send their sick children to school because they cannot stay home to care for them.

The bill is drawing opposition from some Republicans who say the government will be forcing regulation on businesses that can’t afford it.

Obama says this bill is “ultimately is going to make our economy stronger,” the Washington Post reports. He also states there will be benefits for businesses, such as decreased employee turnover.


Paid Time Off

I received two weeks of vacation time per year and had sick leave too. I could get comp time for working extra hours. One of my sons was sick and I told my boss "I'll be gone for two weeks". No one should be forced to work without healthcare, or have to choose between going to work or caring for a friend or family member.

I was shocked to learn this wasn't the law.

When I was a teenager working at a retail store in a minimum wage job, we all had paid sick time. I don't know if this was once the law and got repealed in CA, or if my employer was just doing something they didn't have to do. I got strep throat and tonsillitis, wound up with my tonsils taken out, and did collect much needed sick time, even back in the 1970s. Would you really want someone coming to work with strep throat, or the flu, or a high fever that could maybe turn out to be measles or something worse? It's a no brainer that nobody wants to be waited on or work beside someone who is contagious, and in food service it's a clear public health hazard, as in many other jobs. If you can't afford to give your employees time off when they are sick, maybe you shouldn't be in business.