The Healthy Families Act has been introduced several times over the last couple of years. It was reintroduced to both the House of Representatives and the Senate again on March 20, 2013. It deals with paid time off, but this Healthy Families Act legislation is unlikely to make it. Despite that I wanted you to be aware of this legislation since this is not the first time it has been introduced and will likely not be the last.
The Healthy Families Act is essentially a mini-FMLA for companies as small as 15 employees, but it impacts all companies by requiring employers to provide up to seven (7) days of paid leave to cover employees who need to care for a sick child, stepchild, a domestic partner, spouse or themselves in times of illness or to deal with instances of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Covered employers, those with 15 or more employees, would be required to provide one hour of paid time that is accrued every 30 hours of work, up to a maximum of 56 hours. The accrual of time begins the minute the employee begins their job and the time can be taken after they have been employed for sixty (60) days, as it is accrued. By this time someone working 40 hours a week would have accrued about 10 hours of paid time.
The coverage of this Act includes private sector employers with 15 or more employees, including part-time workers, the Library of Congress and the Government Accountability Office and any other public agency. The time carries over from one year to the next if unused and must be reinstated if a terminated employee returns to the organization with in one year of the termination. The Act also specifically forbids an employer from requiring the employee to find their own replacement while taking leave.
The proponents of the bill argue that nearly 40 percent of the private-sector workforce (about 40 million workers) lacks paid sick time and many others have sick time that must be used for personal illness and not the illness of others. They argue that when employees are not allowed to take time off to care for sick family members they suffer from “presenteeism” that costs businesses $180 billion annually in lost productivity.
Opponents of the bill argue that small businesses would be severely impacted by this Act because of the costs. Larger businesses already provide paid sick time or other time that can be used for this purpose.
Status and likelihood of passage
The bill has been introduced and referred to committees. This bill did not make it through previous Congressional sessions and is given little to no chance to survive in 2013 either. The best chance this bill will have is in the mid-term elections and only then if there is a change in the make-up of the House of Representatives to a majority of Democrats.
I am not a fan of one more piece of legislation being foisted upon employers. I would much prefer employers voluntarily providing paid time-off because they see it as a way to attract and retain valuable employees. In my career good companies work with valuable employees in time of need. I have also seen a good number of employees take advantage of every minute of paid time-off. These abusers don’t need the help of the government to get more paid time-off.
Most companies I have dealt with provide 3 to 5 days of paid sick time and they have, for the most part, done away with the prohibition of having to use it only for personal illness. I have also experienced that the vast majority of employees seldom use paid sick time, unless they see others abusing the benefit getting free rein to do so.
What is the solution? You tell me. Make a comment and let us know what you do currently and whether this legislation should be passed.