If you’ve ever been a waitress or worked in a video store or made lattes at a coffeeshop, you know that sick days–at least paid ones–are a luxury. The city of Austin has just made a bold move to change that. On Friday, the Austin City Council voted 9-2 to make paid sick leave a mandatory requirement for all non-government employers. Austin is now the first city in Texas to regulate sick leave.
Beginning October 1, businesses with 15 or fewer employees, will have to cover 48 hours total of paid sick leave, equal to six full eight-hour work days. All other private employers will be required to provide up to 64 hours of paid sick leave, according to the Statesman. So-called micro-businesses, with five or fewer employees, will also be required to give paid sick leave, but not until October 2020. Employees will accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour per 30 worked.
The move comes in the wake of a record-setting flu season that has spread across the nation, killing hundreds of people and hospitalizing thousands, in part because workers simply can’t afford to stay home when sick. As PopSci points out in their comprehensive look at sick leave, according to a 2009 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, at least 40% of private-sector workers don’t have paid days off. So when they come down with an infection like the flu, they go to work taking the virus with them. Mandatory paid sick leave could dramatically change that system and help slow the spread of this flu–and the next one.