A Renewed Push for Paid Sick Leave Amidst Severe Flu Season

While staying home MAY be the best course of action when it comes to the flu, it's not a viable option for all New Yorkers.

And as Governor Cuomo declares a public health emergency because of the severity of this flu season, City Councilmember Gale Brewer is emphasizing the importance of paid sick days for more workers in New York City. She is sponsoring a bill that would require employers to provide time off for ill employees.

Brewer says the bill would provide five paid sick days for businesses of more than five employees. "And you take it or lose it during the year. And it doesn't kick in until after some months after you've started your job," she added. 

Businesses with five employees or less would not be required to pay ill workers for sick days, but they also couldn't fire them for not working when they are under the weather.

"People really do not take time off if they're sick," Brewer says, "because of lack of pay, needing to pay the rent, and because they're fearful of getting fired."

The Councilmember says paid sick days would prevent people from going to work and school only to infect co-workers and classmates, causing further spread of sickness.

Brewer says that the problem is exacerbated when parents can't afford to lose a day's pay to stay home and care for sick children, so they send them off to school sick.

 "I'm sure right now as we speak kids are going to school sick. Their parents cannot take a day off," said the Councilmember.

Councilmember Brewer noted that her bill has widespread support from healthcare professionals. She says that emergency room staff report that they often treat flu patients who never return for follow-up care because they don't have paid sick leave.

A hearing on the bill was scheduled for last fall but was delayed because of Sandy. Brewer says she has been assured by City Council Speaker's Christine Quinn's office that the bill will receive a hearing soon.

Both the Speaker and Mayor Bloomberg have spoken out against the bill in the past, saying it could hurt businesses.