Get paid to stay home sick with the flu? You will if lawmakers have their way

Swine fluEveryone from President Obama to your office mate wants you to stay home sick at the first flu-like symptom. And now, if some lawmakers have their way, workers nursing H1N1 symptoms will be paid to stay home - whether they've got sick days accrued or not.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been leading the charge since September, lobbying for the scores of flu-plagued New Yorkers to get paid to stay home sick. That's because nearly two-thirds of New York City's work force is without paid sick days. And their over-stretched budget trumps their fever, causing them to drag themselves - and their flu-like symptoms - into work.

Advocacy groups like the National Partnership for Women and Families are pushing for paid sick days, and more lenient policies too. They claim 48% of the U.S. private sector workforce can't take paid leave without advance notice.

"On the one hand, you have all of our top officials saying, 'Do the responsible thing. If you're sick, stay home,'" Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, told the Huffington Post. "You have advice from the Centers for Disease Control on exactly how many days you should stay home, and how many days we need to keep kids at home. And at the same time, we have a country where almost half the workforce doesn't have a single paid sick day."

All the attention started by Bloomberg has prompted the Feds to visit the idea of swine-flu-related paid sick days. House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller has introduced legislation to direct employers to pay for 'sick days' for workers sent home with the virus, saying his measure would protect about 50 million American workers who don't receive paid sick days.

Under the bill an employer would have to ask a sick employee to stay home. The bill would apply to those working at a business that employs 15 or more people. Businesses that already offer at least five paid sick days would be exempt.

A hearing on Miller's bill will be held later this month, although he's seeking a quick vote on the floor, in part, because the proposal also applies to contagious illnesses similar to the swine flu.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in consumer issues.

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