By state Reps. Stephanie Chang and Erika Geiss
As working moms ourselves, we know how hard it is to juggle the obligations of a career, raising children and maintaining a home. We are fortunate to have supportive families and a job that offers good benefits. When our daughters have been sick, we have been able to take time off to care for them. Unfortunately, many women aren’t so lucky.
An estimated 40 percent of workers in Michigan cannot take paid time off when they or a family member are sick. This issue is particularly important to working moms — some of whom hold down two or three jobs to provide for their families — that need to care for themselves, children, parents or all of the above. Taking a sick child to the doctor or tending to an ailing parent shouldn’t mean that a worker loses a day’s pay — or even her job. In addition, parents who do not have paid sick leave are more than twice as likely to send a sick child to daycare or school. This puts the health of other children in jeopardy.
In cases where the worker herself is sick, she might go to work despite her condition. Co-workers and customers are needlessly exposed to an illness. Workers who are sick on the job are also less productive than if they are allowed to stay home and recover.
We have introduced legislation to correct this injustice. House Bill 4167 creates the Paid Sick Leave Act. It allows part-time and full-time workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. Workers would be allowed to use this time to care for themselves or a family member, or recover after an incidence of domestic or sexual violence.
The bill prohibits employers from withholding this time off or taking retaliatory actions against workers who use it. It also requires employers to keep records on how many employees use this paid sick leave to ensure compliance.
We are deeply committed to the economic security and well-being of working women — as mothers, and as state representatives and members of the Progressive Women’s Caucus.
More women are the sole or primary breadwinner for their family than ever before, so this issue is of the utmost importance to us as a state.
Or at least it should be. HB 4167 has languished in the House Commerce and Trade Committee since February 2015 without receiving a hearing, testimony or vote.
Not only will this legislation improve the lives of women and families in Michigan, it will have a net positive impact on the economy. Employees who return to work recovered from sickness perform better. Their colleagues and customers are not exposed to disease. Being able to care for a parent at home might mean not incurring the expense of an assisted care facility or nursing home. And not losing wages as a result of caring for oneself and one’s family means more money can be put into the local economy. This isn’t a partisan issue or solely a women’s issue — it’s an economic and public health issue that affects all of us and our communities.
As moms, we look forward to this Mother’s Day, and we encourage everyone reading this to thank their mother for everything she did for them. As state representatives, we can think of no better present than passing earned, paid sick leave legislation in Michigan.
State Reps. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) represent the Downriver communities of Ecorse, River Rouge, Romulus and Taylor.