Philadelphia Needs Earned Sick Leave

By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney

On Thursday, March 14th, Philadelphia City Council will vote on Councilmember Greenlee’s “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” bill (pdf), which would require employers with six or more employees to provide up to seven paid days of leave for employees to use when they are sick, receive preventive care, address needs related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or take care of a family member. Currently, many workers do not have paid sick leave. When employees without paid leave get sick, they risk losing pay or their job for taking a day off to recover or to seek treatment; thus, many restaurant, healthcare, and childcare workers have no choice but to go to work sick.

Earned sick leave benefits everyone in Philadelphia:

  • Earned sick leave benefits employees by giving them the flexibility necessary to take care of their health and their families’ health. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has estimated that “access to paid sick days is associated with better self-reported health, a lower likelihood of delayed medical care, and less frequent visits to hospital emergency departments.”
  • Earned sick leave benefits the public by reducing the transmission of contagious illnesses like colds and the flu. As the Women’s Law Project discussed in its report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, a majority of workers in the restaurant industry have had no choice but to handle food while sick, thus exposing customers to viruses and bacteria, because workers lack access to paid sick leave.
  • Earned sick leave even benefits employers by increasing productivity of employees, increasing morale, and reducing turnover in the workplace. The IWPR projects that paid sick leave will save Philadelphia’s businesses half a million dollars per year. We know that paid sick leave is not “bad for business” based on the experience of other cities, like San Francisco, which, according to an IWPR report, enjoyed continued job growth after the implementation of San Francisco’s paid leave ordinance in 2007. The city also weathered the recession better than its surrounding counties.

Some Councilmembers are considering opposing the bill, which sends the message that Philadelphia and its businesses do not care about the health of its employees and the public. That message is bad for everyone, particularly during cold and flu season, when far too many Philadelphians risk exposure when they come into contact with sick employees at local businesses. Councilmember Greenlee’s bill is about protecting our health, and everyone who cares about the physical and financial health of Philadelphia’s working families should support it.

Call Philadelphia City Council today to show your support for this bill and/or send tweets in support of the bill to @BobbyHenon, @JimFKenney, @CouncilwomanBRB, @cmcbass, @CouncilOBrien.

To learn more about earned sick leave, see The Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces.


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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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