It’s not easy to be sick in America. 

It’s even tougher to be sick in certain parts of America. Some 28 million workers in 35 states don’t have access to paid sick leave. 

Changing that difficult situation is the focus of the Right to Rest & Recover initiative from Theraflu, which is now in its third year. 

The Right to Rest & Recover campaign launched in late 2021 with a spoken word poem, “Some Heroes,” by actor and poet Suzen Baraka. Grounded in her own lived experiences, the poem was intended to be uplifting while also shining a light on the realities of workers who have no choice but to go to work sick.

Last year, the stories of individual workers were featured. This year, the campaign is prioritizing legislative and policy changes. 

The tagline of the campaign, “We’re sick of working sick,” reflects a reality uncovered in a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research and sponsored by Theraflu. Nearly 70% of employed Americans reported that they had gone to work sick rather than take a day off in the last 12 months. The survey also found that half of workers do not know if they are legally entitled to sick leave. 

The campaign also established a partnership with A Better Balance, a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing work-family justice and helping workers in America understand their rights, hopes to address that lack of awareness. 

Visitors to the Right to Rest & Recover page on the Theraflu website are directed to A Better Balance’s site, where they can find state-by-state information on not only sick leave but also family leave, how to navigate pregnancy at work and how to take time off for childbirth and bonding. 

According to Pam Remash, marketing director, Cough Cold Flu Brand Portfolio at Haleon, a central mission for A Better Balance as well as the Right to Rest & Recover campaign is not only informing consumers of their rights but creating change in behavior as well. 

“A Better Balance specializes in this area of helping people understand their rights within each state and they are also helping us drive policy change,” says Remash. “We are moving beyond just driving awareness to being a catalyst for change.” 

Efforts on the advocacy front include sending “get-well cards” to legislators that call for changes around sick leave and encouraging consumers to sign a petition encouraging Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act which would establish paid sick time as a right on the federal level. 

A Better Balance is not the only new partner to join with Haleon in advocating for paid sick leave over the past year. 

Justin Sutherland, a Top Chef contestant, is helping to raise awareness — on his own social channels and through other outreach — about the lack of sick leave with a special focus on the service industry. 

“We were excited when Justin’s name came up and not only because he’s known from Top Chef, but he also had a boating accident that allows him to speak firsthand about what it is like being in the food industry and not being able to work,” Remash says. “He understands the workers in that industry well and we were happy that he was willing to share his story to help drive awareness around the issue.”

While Sutherland’s participation is new, one consistent element of the Right to Rest & Recover campaign over all three years has been its fund to provide sick days for workers who are not otherwise entitled to them. 

In year one, the campaign provided $150,000 in microgrants of $200 to cover one day of unpaid sick leave. (People can apply for these microgrants on the Theraflu site.) 

This year, the company is doubling that amount to $300,000. The total support provided to the Rest & Recover fund over the life of the campaign is $600,000. 

Consumers will come across the campaign through social, digital, paid search and other channels, but one that Remash thinks is especially encouraging is the retail embrace of the Rest & Recover initiative. 

“A few of our retailers have become platforms to also talk about the right to rest and recover and drive people to our page, which is really unusual,” she says. “They don’t often do that, but they believe in the cause too and they believe that people should be signing the petition. It’s helped drive even more awareness and scale.”

Remash acknowledges that the changes that Theraflu is pursuing are enormous in nature, spanning federal, state and local levels. While acknowledging these policies won’t be enacted overnight, she’s hopeful about the role that Theraflu and its partners can play in driving change. 

“We all get sick, and it shouldn’t be a privilege for the few. All workers in America should have the right to rest and recover,” she says. “If we can use the power of our Theraflu brand to get those voices heard, the better for all of us.”