Too sick to work?

New executive order highlights desperate need for paid sick days

Just in time for Labor Day, a new presidential executive order authorized a seven-day paid sick leave for federal workers, effective January 17 for some 300,000 employees. But the order does nothing for many South Florida workers still out in the cold over pay security during illness

Osmond Levers, who works for a federal department in Miami, says he gets 5 paid sick days and 10 vacation days annually. But, his wife Judith, employee of a private-sector company in Boca Raton, is not “assigned clearly defined paid sick leave, but a pool of paid time off hours.”

Miami human resources consultant Genevieve Abrahams says, though many private sector employees are allotted set paid time off hours (or PTO) every month, there is often no differentiation between “a fixed paid sick, vacation, and maternal leave days.”

This leaves new mothers in precarious situations, as “in many cases women use up accumulated PTO towards maternity leave,” leaving little for illnesses.

And there are many workers who get no paid sick leave whatsoever. U.S. Bureau of Labor says that 39 percent of private-sector workers lack paid sick days. Lisa Barnett, a worker in a restaurant chain in South Florida says “many months I am sick like a dog, but can’t afford to stay home sick and not get paid.”

The need to reform paid sick and maternity leave policies nationwide will be a key item on President Obama’s State of the Union address this year. Reports say Obama will urge employers to revise their paid sick policies.

This is the hope of Morgan Dacosta, who is pregnant and receives the PTO policy on her Miami job. “I really, really hope private sector uses the president’s example. I think this would motivate employees, and lead to more productivity in the work place.”

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