The House Education and Labor Committee continues to consider provisions of HR 3991, the House Emergency Influenza Containment Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller of California, would require that employers provide 5 paid sick days to employees.
Part of the impetus for this action is the H1N1 influenza virus, also called the Swine Flu. Federal legislators have been considering a mandatory sick leave law for more than 4 years. The late Senator Ted Kennedy cosponsored such a bill in 2007. However, this may be the year that the legislation becomes the law of the land.
The purpose of the legislation is to decrease the spread of H1N1 influenza by having susceptible employees or infected employees stay home. Most employees have indicated that they are unwilling to stay home unless they have paid sick leave.
Interestingly enough, if passed the mandatory sick leave law would be temporary. It would expire after 2 years, unless extended by law.
Opponents fear that this temporary bill will open the door to permanent mandatory sick leave similar to defeated bills introduced in previous years. They also argue that introducing any bill that puts a financial burden on employers at this point simply hinders economic recovery, and may result in job loss.
Although several municipalities including Milwaukee and the District of Columbia have mandatory sick leave laws, there has never been such a requirement under federal law. A number of states have considered mandatory sick leave bills, but none has passed such a law – yet. One very popular plan would require employers with 15 or more workers to allow employees to accrue 1 hour of sick leave for each 30 hours worked. The total sick leave per year would be capped at 40 hours for small employers and 72 hours for larger companies.
As always, when a mandatory sick leave law is passed, it will be reported here.
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