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Go Ask Mom

MomsRising: All parents deserve paid sick days

Posted September 28, 2010

The long, lazy days of summer have wound to an end and school’s back in session. And we all know what that means…along with the homework assignments and library books, our kids will be bringing home germs. We knew it was coming when back-to-school lists included Kleenex and hand sanitizer!

Most children average between six and ten colds a year, which can go up to 12 colds a year for kids in school or day care. And we all know that while kids may be totally unwilling to share their toys, somehow they always share their germs! With those kind of odds, it’s no wonder that workers occasionally need time off to care for themselves or a sick family member.

Unfortunately, in North Carolina the common colds that every family with school-age children will certainly face can place working families in real financial jeopardy. Nearly half of North Carolina’s workers, 1.6 million people, lack a single paid sick day that they could use to take care of themselves, their sick child, or go to a doctor.

The routine back-to-school physicals and immunizations can be anything but routine for parents forced to choose between the preventative care required to keep their child healthy and the pay check they need to bring home to keep food on the table.

Because they lack paid sick days to care for themselves or their families, parents are far too often forced to choose between a day's pay and caring for sick kids. This has negative impacts on the children’s health, as well as negative public health impacts as sick children are sent to school or day care. North Carolina parents can be (and have been) fired for staying home to care for a sick child. Other parents report coming to work sick themselves so they could use their limited earned sick days for their children or bringing their sick child to work with them to sleep on a blanket under their desk. Paid sick days would make a major difference.

In seeking more family-friendly policies, North Carolina parents aren’t asking for a handout. We are asking for the tools we need to be both productive employees and parents. It shouldn’t have to be an either/ or. What’s good for families can also be good for business. For example, SAS, the Cary-based firm, has continued to be quite profitable while also becoming the No. 1 ranked company on Fortune magazine’s "100 Best Companies to Work For" list in the United States.

There are solutions to these shared problems. A state legislative committee has been appointed to study reforming a variety of work-family balance policies, including legislation that would guarantee all NC workers a modest number of paid sick days. This proposal is backed by a diverse coalition of North Carolinians, including NC MomsRising. We are hopeful that when the study committee makes its final recommendations in early 2011 paid sick days legislation will be among them.

North Carolina is a state that prides itself on family values. This starts with valuing our families and supporting the kind of policies parents deserve to reach their full potential as parents and as employees. We’re counting on our legislators to provide the leadership necessary to make workplace policies meet the needs of today’s families.

Beth Messersmith is a mother of two in Durham, NC and a member of MomsRising.

5 Comments

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  • olive91988 Oct 4, 2010

    boatoakr - I hear you! All around me parents are taking sick days when a child is sick, taking them to appts or just to go to little league or whatever. Myself and others like me without children at home, are picking up the slack. It is expected that we do this with NO complaints. And guess what, when WE take a sick day, we are accused of not really being sick! I have come into work sick several times and if I call out that means I am very sick. I think parents take full advantage of sick day benefits in a negative way because their kids might not be sick, they have to take them to appts, little league, practice, ballet, etc. etc.

  • howdiditgettothis Sep 29, 2010

    Boatrokr - Not sure where you're working, but hey - I'd like a job there if the parents get more perks. My employer couldn't care less if I were giving birth to quads, if you're on the schedule, you're there.

    Seriously - I was 38 before I had a child, so I lived the life you mention. Take it from me, you have WORLDS more energy & time for yourself.

    Lastly - you are correct that fellow employees should get equal time off. Next time say you already have holiday plans, when asked at the last minute AND/OR get a commitment ahead of time with your coworkers to rotate holidays fairly. You always have a choice.

  • boatrokr Sep 29, 2010

    EVERYONE deserves a paid sick day, not just people with kids. I'm tired of parents getting all the perks for kids they chose to have.

    Try being single, and told you have to come in because Sue is home with her kids, denied holiday leave "because everyone else has a family to be with", etc.

  • howdiditgettothis Sep 29, 2010

    When an immediate family member died, my child was upset enough already (and missed 3 days for the out of state funeral), but was also upset again that they missed out on a perfect attendance award.

    Another time, they had tonsils out, and missed out on the award.

    It's a catch 22.

    Great discussion topic with kids, though -- since things are often out of our control, but it doesn't mean we don't try our best.

  • snowl Sep 28, 2010

    Pay or no pay, I always kept my kids home from school when they were sick. I felt that the school should stop rewarding students with "perfect attendance awards" at graduation. Mine did not get the award because it was more important to us not to spread the germs to others at school and to help them get better sooner. Everyone deserves a sick day, paid or not.