Wyden, Merkley Co-sponsor Bill to Establish National Paid Sick Days Policy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are co-sponsoring the Healthy Families Act, paid sick days legislation that would help keep workers, communities and the economy in Oregon and nationwide healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has both magnified and spotlighted the long-standing need to fix a broken paid sick leave policy that forces far too many hard-working people into the brutal choice between their health and their paycheck,” said Wyden, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “This inequity lands especially hard on women and communities of color, and this must be the Congress that builds a fair sick days policy for safe workplaces in Oregon and nationwide during this public health crisis and beyond.”

“We’ve learned during this pandemic how dangerous and shortsighted it is to force someone who is feeling sick to decide between protecting themselves and their community by staying home, or losing their job,” said Merkley. “Paid sick leave is a basic right that workers deserve, regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their line of work. It’s time that we pass this bill and finally deliver—for those workers, their families, and all of us.”

The reintroduction of the Healthy Families Act comes as one in four workers still lack access to paid sick days. For these 32 million private sector workers—who are disproportionately women and people of color—getting sick or having to care for a sick loved one means having to choose between losing a paycheck or going into work sick and risking the health of their colleagues and their community.

Recent studies show that requiring employers to provide paid sick days reduces the spread of flu-like illnesses and reduces emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year. Another study showed that the emergency paid leave provision passed in 2020 helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by roughly 15,000 cases per day.

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers 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 sick or to care for a sick family member—as well as to 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.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the Healthy Families Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), was co-sponsored by 35 other senators and by 155 House members.

A list of the 52 national and 15 state organizations that have endorsed the Healthy Families Act is here.

Bill text is here.