LANSING — The Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) stands behind an effort to require paid sick leave for many workers in the state of Michigan. A new bill introduced by PWC Chairwoman Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) would allow workers to take earned, paid time off to recover from illnesses or care for a sick family member, and would require employers to allow workers to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work. PWC members House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) and state Reps. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Leslie Love (D-Detroit) co-sponsored the bill, and the same bill has also been introduced in the Senate.
“When a worker can stay home and recover from an illness, or take care of a sick family member, then they come back to work focused on their job and not worrying about what is happening at home,” said Greig. “Workers who aren’t stressed about losing money out of their paycheck or losing their job because of an illness are more likely to be an asset to both their family and their employer.”
According to a 2016 analysis by the Michigan League for Public Policy, more that 1.7 million Michigan workers — about 44 percent — cannot take time off if they or a family member are ill. The legislation introduced by Chang and a parallel Senate bill introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) would:
- Require employers to set aside one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works regardless of whether an employee works part time or full time.
- Stipulate when a worker could use this earned time off, including during their own illness, the illness of a close family member or recovery after a violent crime.
- Protect all Michigan families, including LGBT families, grandparents raising children, domestic partners raising children and single parent families.
“No one wins when a sick worker, with the flu or another communicable disease, goes to work and risks spreading their illness to their co-workers or the public,” said Brinks. “Allowing workers to earn sick leave will increase productivity for employers while protecting the public health.”
Companies that fall under the Family Medical Leave Act are only required to offer unpaid sick leave to their workers. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, five states and Washington, D.C., have sick leave laws. Connecticut became the first state to enact a sick leave law. California and Massachusetts enacted sick leave laws in 2015. Oregon’s law took effect in 2016, and Vermont’s law took effect in January of this year.
“The Family Medical Leave Act is useful for as far as it goes, but if you can’t afford to lose money out of your paycheck, then you can’t use it,” said Love. “That’s why we need to pass this earned, paid sick leave legislation. Workers need to be able to stay home and get well or take care of a sick family member, and they also need to be able to buy medicine, groceries and pay their bills. Michiganders are hard workers, and they deserve to be able earn paid sick leave days.”