Congress May Grant You More Sick Days

ByABC News
February 22, 2007, 3:10 PM

Feb. 22, 2007 — -- Elnora Collins says it's expensive raising two teenagers on the money she makes as a home health care aide. Most weeks, with a little juggling, and a lot of prayer, she gets by.

"I steal from Peter and give to Paul. Don't let the right hand know what the left is doing. That's the way I do it, and I make ends meet," Collins told Betsy Stark.

But one thing Collins cannot afford to do -- ever -- is get sick. She works through her fevers and flus. She works when she has no voice and when she barely has the strength to drive to the next job.

"If you decide to go home, [it's] loss of pay. So you're laying there sick and still trying to figure out how you're gonna pay this because you know when you get this check, it's going to be short. And when you get that check, it hurts," she said.

Collins is one of 59 million American workers who have no paid sick days at all. She's also among the 86 million who do not get a single paid day off to care for a sick child.

Of the 20 most competitive economies in the world, according to research by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. is the only one not to require businesses to provide paid sick days.

The federal government requires most employers to provide 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave for serious medical conditions. Advocates for paid sick leave say that until the law requires companies to provide a few paid sick days, millions of Americans will have no choice but to do what Collins does: work, when they should stay home.

"Many of these people are in the very industries you least want to have coming to work sick. They're folks who are food service workers, handling our food, child care workers, taking care of our kids, folks who work in nursing homes, in hospitality and retails," says Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families.