In Philadelphia, there’s a disconnect between public health initiatives and access to care. The reason? Lack of paid time off to get to the doctor to care for chronic conditions.
Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded approximately $22.54 million in grants to organizations in Pennsylvania to help improve wellness and prevention efforts. Unfortunately, 39 percent of private sector workers in Pennsylvania do not have paid sick days, meaning they may be unable to afford to take time off work to access the preventative care needed to stay healthy.
Low-income workers are even less likely to have paid sick days. Nationwide, 80 percent of low-income workers do not have paid sick days. What’s more, 40 percent of working mothers who have children with asthma or other chronic diseases do not have paid sick days.
In Pennsylvania, chronic diseases are a significant public health challenge. Almost 7.8 million cases of seven common chronic diseases -- such as cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions -- were reported in Pennsylvania in 2003. Many of these conditions are manageable with regular primary care. Instead, these chronic diseases resulted in $50.5 billion in lost productivity and economic costs to Pennsylvania.
Currently, there is no law requiring that workers in Pennsylvania receive any paid time off from work, and a worker can be fired for simply missing work due to illness. Paid sick days laws allow employees to accrue paid sick time based on the number of hours worked. These laws protect public health, reduce turnover, and make workers more productive.
The Philadelphia Council has an opportunity before this summer to pass Bill No. 080474, the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces ordinance, which would allow employees in Philadelphia to earn paid sick days. In Pennsylvania, the Health Families, Healthy Workplaces Act would allow workers throughout the state to earn paid sick days. We hope the Philadelphia Council recognizes the benefit to workers, businesses, and the economy that would come from passing this bill. It’s simple: when you ensure pay and job security for an employee needing to visit the doctor, it is more likely that employees will receive regular care for chronic conditions or for other health needs. It’s good for workers, and it’s good for business.