You May Have Access to Paid Sick Leave And Not Even Know It

Supermajority Education Fund

June 24, 2020

A new video from the advocacy group Paid Leave For All (PLFA) aims to educate frontline workers about their right to emergency paid leave as part of the Families First Act. The coronavirus relief package, which became law in March, includes provisions for some hourly workers to take up to 80 hours of paid time off for COVID-19 related reasons including caregiving responsibilities and stay-at-home orders. Additionally, workers are eligible for 12 weeks of time off for childcare reasons, with 10 of those weeks paid.

As PLFA director Dawn Huckelbridge notes, these temporary paid leave laws mark the first time any national paid leave policy has been implemented in the United States, one of the only countries in the world without such a policy. “This was historic in that it was a bipartisan law that passed for the first time,” Huckelbridge told Supermajority News. But, she added, “it was on a temporary basis and emergency relief-related. It will sunset at the end of this year.”

In addition to being temporary, another major issue with the paid leave policy is that few workers know they are eligible for it. A poll by PLFA found that only 41 percent of voters have heard about the paid leave policies created by the coronavirus relief package. The lack of knowledge about the bill is concerning because “we know that paid leave is one of the most effective methods for curbing transmissions” of COVID-19, said Huckelbridge. “So, in this crisis, it is a complete dereliction of duty that our elected leaders are not making sure that workers can access this protection to keep us all safe.”

Huckelbridge says more needs to be done to educate workers about their right to paid sick leave and to expand the bill on a more permanent basis. The bill only extended temporary paid leave to workers at businesses with under 500 employees, so up to 106 million workers, who are disproportionately people of color, women, and low-wage workers, were left out.

“A lot of people who are preparing our food, keeping us safe, and preparing our medicine are now being forced to keep working but now without the guarantee of a single paid sick day,” said Huckelbridge. “That includes a lot of the frontline workers who are putting their lives on the line,” she added, noting that these workers can learn more about how to take action at Paid Leave For All’s website.

The coronavirus pandemic and its effect on workers nationwide also signify that a more permanent leave policy is necessary for the United States to thrive economically, said Huckelbridge. “When this pandemic hit, we were caught totally flat-footed. We were scrambling to create these provisions piecemeal,” she said. “We need to look at passing [a permanent paid leave policy] so that we are never caught unprepared for a crisis again.”