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Earned Sick Time Not a Luxury for All MI Workers

About 47 percent of private-sector workers in Michigan do not have paid sick time. (William Brawley/Flickr)
About 47 percent of private-sector workers in Michigan do not have paid sick time. (William Brawley/Flickr)
December 23, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - It's cold and flu season, and holiday gatherings can expose people to germs that could leave them under the weather. But some Michigan workers don't have the luxury of recovering from illnesses at home.

Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, explains almost half of all private-sector workers in the state do not have paid sick time. And she contends some lose pay or even face being fired when they take time off for illness.

"One out of seven low-wage workers, and one out of five low-wage moms, reported they lost a job because they were sick or needed to take care of a family member," says Jacobs. "Those are the numbers that we really ought to be paying attention to."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people who are ill stay home 24 hours after a fever subsides. There is an effort to get a statewide initiative on the November 2016 ballot to allow workers to earn paid time off for personal or family health needs.

Jacobs says workers without earned sick days are often in jobs that include frequent interaction with the public, such as the 300,000 restaurant workers in Michigan, and infections can also be spread by sending sick children to school or daycare. Her group sees it as a matter of public health.

"It's such an important issue for people that we see every day - restaurant workers, retail workers," says Jacobs. "At the end of the day, we want to keep kids healthy, we want to prevent absences among teachers and students, and we want to limit the spread of contagious diseases."

Some opponents of paid sick leave claim it increases businesses costs, and raises the price of products and services. But Jacobs counters that it helps the economy.

"From a business standpoint, from a public health standpoint, we can eliminate over a million emergency visits each year in the state and save, nationwide, well over $1 billion when you look at costs to individuals and private insurers, and public programs," she says.

The ballot proposal calls for people to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to nine days depending on the size of the business.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI