Members Of N.M. Delegation Introduce Healthy Families Act To Allow Workers To Earn Paid Sick Days

Healthy Families Act would help workers, protect public health, and strengthen the economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick leave to use when they are sick, to care for a loved one, to obtain preventative care, or to address the impacts of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

"No one should have to choose between taking care of a loved one and taking home a paycheck, but today that's the case for far too many New Mexico families. New Mexico ranks among the worst states in the nation for access to paid sick leave," Udall said. "We need to work together to improve the system so workers can choose to take care of themselves and their families — and not risk losing their job as a result. I'm cosponsoring this bill because it helps families and employers. Paid leave programs like the Healthy Families Act protect our families, ensure employers have a steady workforce, and strengthen our economy."

“New Mexicans should not face the impossible choice of caring for their health or keeping their paycheck or job,” said Heinrich. “Yet, the reality is that hard working people in New Mexico and across the country have to make this decision if they catch the flu, if their child is sick, or if they have to take care of a sick parent. This bill will ensure that our economy works for all families.”

“This legislation is about basic fairness and common sense,” said Luján. “It’s not fair that millions of Americans must make a decision when they are ill – go to work sick and risk making their condition worse and infecting their co-workers, or risk getting fired from their job by taking a sick day. It also makes good business sense -- paid sick days help decrease lost productivity when employees work sick, which costs our national economy $160 billion annually according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.”

“Paid sick leave obviously makes sense for New Mexico’s working families, but it makes economic sense for employers who need healthy workers to be successful. Family-friendly policies – in the public and private sectors -- are good for morale, result in a more stable workforce, and increase productivity,” said Lujan Grisham

Today, 41 million private sector workers do not have access to paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would allow worker at businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick leave each year. This would allow workers to stay home when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, seek preventive medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. 

Businesses that already provide paid sick leave would not have to change their current policies, as long as they meet the minimum standards of the Healthy Families Act.  

Studies show that sick paid leave can reduce the spread of contagious diseases like the flu and a national paid sick day policy would reduce emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year.    

See below for more information on the Healthy Families Act.   

FACT SHEET: The Healthy Families Act 

Today, 41 million private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick days. That forces many Americans to make the difficult choice of losing a day’s pay – and in some cases losing their job – or showing up to work sick and potentially spreading an illness to others. Even when workers have personal sick days, those might not cover the times when a child is ill and needs to stay home from school. That forces many parents to make the impossible choice of caring for their family or risking their livelihood. 

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to care for a family member and to address personal medical needs. This legislation will help workers and increase economic security, while taking an important step toward making sure our economy works for all families, not just the wealthiest few. 

The Act will help families care for their loved ones and themselves.

  • Under this legislation, workers can earn up to 56 hours (seven days) of paid sick time. Workers earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. 
  • Workers can use this time to stay home and get well when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, to seek routine medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence. 

Access to paid sick days will help protect public health.

  • Workers earning low wages are the least likely to have paid sick days, and are often unable to afford to take a day off when they are ill. This can pose public health risks because many low-wage jobs require interaction with the public, for example, caring for seniors or children, working in stores and hotels, or serving or preparing food in restaurants. 
  • Research has shown that paid sick days can reduce the spread of contagious illnesses like the flu, reduce occupational injuries, result in more preventive cancer screenings and other preventive care, and reduce unnecessary visits to the emergency room. For example, the American Journal of Public Health found that the lack of paid sick days contributed to an additional 5,000,000 cases of influenza-like illness during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. 

Expanding access to paid sick days will help families, businesses, and the economy.

  • According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if all workers had access to paid sick days, emergency room visits would decline by 1.3 million visits a year, saving $1.1 billion annually. More than half of those savings would be to public health insurance programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 
  • Nearly 20 states and localities have adopted policies that allow workers to earn paid sick days, including San Francisco, Seattle, and Connecticut, without posing adverse effects on businesses and the economy. Many employers in these localities expressed strong support for paid sick leave policies. 

The Healthy Families Act provides important protections for workers and public health in a way that works for employers.

  • Small employers with fewer than 15 employees would not be required to provide paid sick days.
  • Employers that already provide this leave will not have to change their current policies, as long as their existing leave can be used for the same purposes described in the Act.
  • Employers can require workers to provide documentation supporting any request for leave longer than three consecutive days.