Press Release Government Health and Social Programs Workers

Even with Emergency Temporary Paid Time Off, US Remains Contagion Nation

March 19, 2020

Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

CONTACT: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159, [email protected]

Washington D.C. — “A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that the United States is the only one of 22 rich countries that fails to guarantee sick workers some form of paid sick leave.” That is the announcement from May, 2009 when CEPR reported that the “H1N1 Flu outbreak underscores need to adopt more effective paid sick day and sick leave policies.”

Today, we release a timely update, Contagion Nation 2020: United States Still the Only Wealthy Nation without Paid Sick Leave. This update reveals that in just over a decade, the US has fallen even further behind our peer nations. Several other countries included in our initial report have strengthened their standards for paid leave, including for self-employed workers, while the United States remains the outlier that provides no national guarantee.

As we release this report, the President signed a watered-down version of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which temporarily grants paid time off for many – though not all – of the workers whose livelihood is threatened by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The legislation excludes employers with 500 or more employees from the paid sick days and paid family and medical leave provisions.

“Even in the face of this pandemic, Congress is reluctant to permanently mandate a paid sick leave program,” said Hye Jin Rho, the report’s co-author. “Paid sick days and paid sick leave are critical to the ability of working Americans when they or their family members are sick and to prevent the spread of coronavirus or other infectious diseases.” 

This updated report focuses on the availability of permanent paid leave for workers who need to take at least two weeks of leave — 10 working days — to self-quarantine or get treated for COVID-19 symptoms. This report also shows that states and localities have not waited for federal action and have made progress enacting their own forms of paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave programs.

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