Lack of Paid Sick Leave Underscored at Outset of COVID-19

As a result of COVD-19, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires that employers provide paid sick leave to qualifying employees through December 31, 2020. This is the first ever federal paid sick leave requirement for the private workforce. 

FFCRA follows 12 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted state laws mandating paid sick leave by the private sector, some that have been on the books for years. Connecticut was first in 2011, followed by California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Michigan, Nevada, Washington D.C. and Maine. Some of these laws were put into place by ballot initiatives and others through legislation. Details for each state is available from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic has become clearer in the United States, the lack of paid sick leave for the lowest-earning workers ($10.80/hour or less) has been magnified. Without paid sick leave, these workers often have to choose between wages or the health of their families. And it’s not only about paid sick or family leave—the lowest-earning workers often have unpredictable schedules or are part-time employees, and the impact for them is more challenging.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 National Compensation Survey, only 31% of the lowest-earning workers have paid sick leave. This spotlight on the lack of benefits may open the door for more federal and state requirements post COVID-19 as well as private sector providing benefits. Benefits such as sick, medical and family leave, predictable scheduling and accommodations for pregnant workers and support for breastfeeding mothers when returning to work is beneficial to employees, the health and well-being of children and business too.

Read more about why these benefits matter, 16 policies that support employers, employees and the health and well-being of children and success stories at Family Forward NC.

Note: FFRCA as amended under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) also provides some employees paid family and medical leave and eligible employers will be reimbursed through tax credits.  Read NCECF’s summary of financial supports for families during COVID-19 here