Question: What is the Healthy Families Act and how does it benefit working women?
Introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) in the House of Representatives on May 18, 2009, the Healthy Families Act of 2009 (H.R. 2460) provides paid sick leave to ensure that Americans can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.
Answer: The Healthy Families Act requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide up to seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave each year. Three components of the bill are of significant benefit to women as the paid leave covers:
- Recovery from routine illness or care for an ill family member
- Doctor’s appointments and other preventative care
- Time spent seeking help and services for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault
The bill creates a more level playing field for women whose earning potential is often impacted by scenarios such as those described above. For working women who do not have paid sick days, missing work for any of these reasons means giving up a day’s pay or risk being fired by an employer.
Women traditionally step in as caregivers when children, spouses, parents, or other relatives are ill; likewise they bear the brunt of the burden of taking family members to routine doctor’s visits. And the vast majority of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are women. Thus all three situations create turmoil in women’s lives as they struggle with the question of whether to choose work over family or self-care.
Taking time off to provide care for family members puts women at risk of losing their jobs. As reported by Women’s eNews, “In a 2006 survey, conducted by the Center on Work Life Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, 1 in 6 workers said they or a family member had been fired, suspended, punished or threatened by an employer for taking time off to care for themselves or a family member when ill.” The Health Families Act is intended to alleviate these types of work/family conflicts that women typically face.
Employees can begin accruing paid sick leave from the first day of their employment and would earn one hour for every 30 hours worked up to a total of 56 hours (seven days) annually; but they cannot take paid sick time until they have worked for 60 days.
The Healthy Families Act of 2009 is the latest version of a bill first sponsored by DeLauro in 2005 (H.R.1902) which was referred to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections at that time.