The Democrats are proposing a new government regulation, because Democrats think every problem in society needs to be solved with a regulation. Thus the Healthy Families Act, which has only a tenuous connection to healthy families. It should properly be called the Paid Sick Days Act, but Democratic Congressmen think it's funny to make Republicans vote against "healthy families." There really ought to be a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting dumb names for proposed legislation.
The Democrats want to force employers to offer all employees at least seven paid sick days a year. Now I have previously opined in favor of mandating more time off from work, but this proposed legislation is the wrong way to move towards this goal. This law isn't about offering all workers more time off. It only benefits workers who qualify under the very complicated rules of the legislation. This is the typical leftist communist approach to apportioning resources; only people who the government determines to have greater need get the extra time off from work.
The law would allow parents to use their sick days if their children are sick. There they go again, throwing more benefits at people with kids and discrimating against those without them. People already get enough government benefits on account of having kids.
I strongly believe that people respond to incentives. If you create a law which gives people an incentive to lie or cheat, then you encourage more lying and cheating, and we already have enough lying and cheating going on in society. Obviously, workers will abuse the paid sick day privilege by calling in sick when they just want a day off to have fun. And it's hard to blame them. Lots of low paid workers have pretty crappy jobs. If I worked in a chicken processing plant, I too would probably lie and cheat in order to maximize my time off from such an awful job. This law ties the hands of employers who suspect a worker of cheating, because the worker could sue the employer for firing him for calling in sick, and the employer would have to prove in court that the worker called in sick when he wasn't sick.
What happens if an employer says "we offer no vacation here, but you can use your paid sick days even when you aren't sick." Is this employer violating the law because it is improperly calling vacation days "sick days"? A law which creates so many opportunities for law suits is a bad law. A law which states that all employees must get 15 paid days off per year would be a lot easier to enforce because it would simply be a matter of counting the days off. But the communist Democrats don't like that because it awards the time off to everybody and not just those with the greater need.
In the discussion about this legislation, statistics are brought up which show that lower paid workers are more likely to not have any paid sick days. This is probably a rational free market response to the fact that lower paid workers are more likely to abuse the privilege. I've already discussed how low wage jobs tend to be lousy and thus inherently offer more incentive to cheat in order to avoid a day of drudgery. In addition, low wage workers tend to have lower IQs, and I've previously blogged about how honesty is positively correlated with IQ.
Proponents of the law correctly point out that there is an economic loss when people who are sick go to work, or when people let their sick kids go to school, because this spreads illnesses around. But the benefits of forcing employers to give out paid sick days have to be balanced out against all the negatives documented above. And it seems that the free market has already sorted that out. In high wage jobs, where people are more likely to be honest, paid sick days are common. But in low wage jobs, where people are more likely to be dishonest, sick days are less common. I see no evidence that there needs to be a new law when the free market has already created what seems like an efficient resolution.