Bill would require paid sick days for most
As many as 5.4 million working Californians don't get any paid sick days -- and they tend to be both sicker and poorer than employees who do receive sick leave, according to a report released Wednesday.
''The more you need paid sick days, the less likely you are to have them,'' said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health for San Francisco and a contributor to the report.
The report was released by supporters of a bill that would require all California employers to provide paid time off for workers to care for themselves or family members.
That bill -- AB2716 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco -- was modeled on the paid sick leave law that took effect last year in San Francisco. The bill passed the state Assembly in May and is scheduled for a hearing next week in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce oppose the sick leave bill, saying it is a complicated and costly mandate that could force companies to cut wages or lay off workers.
''In this economy, money is stretched pretty thin for California employers,'' said chamber spokeswoman Marti Fisher. ''It's a bad idea to mandate benefits. This could force employers to cut back on hours, raises or even lay people off.''
But backers said the public health benefits will outweigh any costs to employers.
''It's important for policymakers to see paid sick days not only as a labor policy but as a public health policy,'' said Bhatia. ''One-third of seasonal flu is transmitted in schools and workplaces. Workers without sick days are less likely to stay home and more likely to contribute to the spread of the flu.''
The report, prepared by an Oakland nonprofit called Human Impact Partners with funding from a Unitarian Universalist group, used data from existing health surveys to paint a picture of who does and doesn't receive paid sick leave:
Better-paid workers are more likely to get paid time off. Among the highest-paid quarter of U.S. workers, 72 percent receive paid sick time. But among the lowest-paid quarter, only 21 percent get paid sick time.
Healthy workers are more likely to have paid sick leave than workers in poor health. Seventy-seven percent of California workers who described their health as good to excellent received paid sick time -- versus 55 percent of those who described their health as fair or poor.
Thirty-eight percent of California workers with heart disease don't receive paid sick leave, and 41 percent of those with diabetes don't receive paid sick leave, according to the report.
Like the San Francisco law it's modeled on, AB2716 would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked by an employee.
Small businesses of 10 employees or fewer could limit sick leave to five days per year; other employers would have to allow at least nine days per year.
Employees could use the time for their own illness or medical appointments, or to care for a sick spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, grandparent or sibling. In a slight variation from the San Francisco law, they could also use the time to deal with recovery from domestic violence or sexual assault.