Severity of flu season illustrates need for paid sick days in N.J., advocates say

New Jersey Sen. Loretta Weinberg has introduced a measure calling for employers to provide paid sick days to their workers. AP file photo)

New Jersey Sen. Loretta Weinberg has introduced a measure calling for employers to provide paid sick days to their workers. AP file photo)

Health care groups are seeking a New Jersey law to require that all employers in the state provide earned sick days for their workers.

Some people who don’t have paid sick leave are putting off treatment for the flu, said Beth Cohen, an emergency room nurse at Virtua Hospital in Mount Holly.

“They come in so sick. It’s not even just the flu or pneumonia,” she told legislators in the Statehouse in Trenton. “They’re septic from letting it go so long. And then we’re sending so many people to intensive care — many hospitals, not just ours — because of that.”

Some parents without sick time have sent sick kids to school because they can’t afford to stay home to care for them, said advocates for sick pay.

The measure just may be cost effective for employers, said Judy Schmidt, CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association.

“What we’re saying to our businesses is, yes, it is an expense to them, but it’s better to pay for that one employee to be out with a paid sick day than it is to have three or four of your employees out because they have been contaminated by that employee,” Schmidt said.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, has introduced legislation that would require employers with fewer than 10 workers to offer five paid sick days. Larger employers would have to provide nine paid days.

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