It’s estimated that more than 57 Americans do not get paid sick leave — sometimes even unpaid leave — to remain at home when sick or to care for sick family members. And with the potential for widespread illness relating to the H1N1 flu, members of Congress and others are taking a close look at this important issue.

Here’s from an article from Workforce Management online:

Two leading members of Congress on the issue of employee leave will team up to write a bill that would provide paid time off for workers who contract the H1N1 flu.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut and chair of the Senate health subcommittee on children and families, announced at a hearing Tuesday, November 10, that he and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, intend to formally introduce the legislation in coming weeks.

He and DeLauro portrayed paid sick leave as the best way for workers to follow government directives to stay home if they fall ill.

“This isn’t just a workers’ rights issue—it’s a public health emergency,” said Dodd, who was the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act. “Families shouldn’t have to choose between staying healthy and making ends meet.”

And here’s from a post by Jeffrey Levi on The Huffington Post, “Even a Mild Outbreak is a Major Problem for Workers Without Paid Sick Days“:

Three out of four “low-wage” workers in the United States have no sick leave. And 94 million workers cannot use sick leave to care for sick family members.

The fact that tens of millions of Americans do not have any paid sick days is a sad state of affairs in normal times. In a pandemic so ubiquitous it’s worthy of being named a national emergency by the President of the United States, it’s foolhardy.

And additional perspective is contained in the article in the Los Angeles Times:

In addition to championing the Healthy Families Act, which had been pushed unsuccessfully in Congress, Dodd announced that he soon would introduce emergency sick-leave legislation focused more specifically on the H1N1 outbreak. A similar bill was put forward last week in the House by Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez).

Dodd’s legislation would provide up to seven paid sick days for workers who contract H1N1 flu.

There currently is no requirement for businesses of any size to provide paid sick leave. The Healthy Families Act would create a broad definition of sick leave and force businesses to pay for an hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

More information — and resources — about the issue of paid sick leave is available on this Web site created by the National Partnership for Women & Families.