Lisa Glass’ daughter had a fever last Sunday. On Monday, the doctor started her on TAMIFLU. Tuesday afternoon, Glass’ son was feverish. He tested positive for H1N1 swine flu. Wednesday morning, Glass’ youngest child tested positive. Because her children were sick, Glass, who is a public relations manager for Hoovers, missed work on Monday and Thursday. Her husband, a police officer, stayed home with the children Tuesday and Wednesday. The couple was still negotiating who would stay home Friday.
Glass says she is lucky to work for a company that is very flexible and to have a job she can do from home. But many working mothers don’t have that luxury. More than half of all women workers hold sales, clerical and service jobs. These jobs rarely come with the flex benefits of working from home. Taking sick leave isn’t always an option either. Approximately 57 million Americans, 22 million of them women, have no paid sick days.
The government website Flu.gov offers this advice to parents, “If working from home is not possible, plan ahead for child care at home if your child gets sick or their school is dismissed.” For many parents, that means cobbling together a network of sitters, neighbors, friends, older siblings and sick daycare centers. It means taking unpaid time off, asking coworkers to cover shifts, and in some cases, masking fevers with Motrin and sending sick children to school.
There is legislation pending that could help working parents. The Healthy Families Act would require employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide at least seven paid sick days a year, and allow employees to use the time off to meet their own medical needs or to care for the medical needs of certain family members.
The H1N1 virus is not just a health issue. It is a social and an economic issue. Working parents need options to care for their sick children without the fear of losing their daily wages or perhaps their jobs. Click here to send a letter to your Senators urging them to support paid sick days.
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