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Do I Get Paid Sick Leave?

Avra Siegel on June 10, 2015 10:44 AM

If your child gets sick, do you have access to paid sick leave?

You have the flu. You can barely get out of bed. And you have to choose between getting better at home or paid (possibly infecting others in the process). You might even lose your job by being out. 

Or what if your child gets sick and you are stuck between finding backup childcare or staying home and jeopardizing your job -- or pay. 

In two-thirds of today’s households all parents work. And, more than 50 percent of workers provide care for others—including their children, elderly parents and relatives, spouses, adult children, and returning veterans with disabilities. 

And yet, 39 million private sector workers have to choose between being sick – and getting paid. In fact, only 61 percent of workers have access to paid sick days. 

Pretty shocking statistics for 2015, right? 

There is no federal law that guarantees you time off to take care of yourself or your child, or take your child to the doctor for a checkup or for immunizations. However, as of May 2015, laws are or will soon be in place in three states (California, Connecticut and Massachusetts) and 18 cities that guarantee access to paid sick days that can be used to take a child to the doctor.

A list of these laws is available here. 

There’s also a bill called the Healthy Families Act that’s been introduced at the federal level that would do a number of things to help families get the access they need to paid sick leave. It would:

  • Allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job- protected paid sick days each year to be used to recover from their own illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability. Workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees would earn up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days each year to be used for the same reasons, unless their employers choose to offer paid sick days.
  • Allow workers who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault to use their paid sick days to recover or seek assistance related to an incident.
  • Allow employers to use their existing sick leave policies, so long as they meet the minimums set forth in the Healthy Families Act.

For more information on the Healthy Families Act and paid sick days check this post out from our friends at the National Partnership for Women and Families.

And what does this mean if you are a nanny – or you employ a nanny? First, be aware of your state and/or city-specific sick leave law. If you fall within a state with sick leave requirements, an employer should follow them, perhaps even add more paid leave. And if you don’t live in one of these states, determine what you feel is fair and what you would want if you were in your nanny’s position.

Whether you're a caregiver or you employ one, don’t be afraid to raise this discussion -- create a nanny contract with paid days off in writing, so that both sides are protected and have a clear understanding of the employment agreement.

 Learn the guidelines on being a fair care employer

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Avra Siegel

Avra Siegel is's Director of Public Policy