Coronavirus Moves Paid Sick Leave to the Forefront in Congress

March 06, 2020

Calls for a federal paid sick leave law have grown louder amid the coronavirus outbreak, with pressure from major news outlets and congressional Democrats.

Virus generates increased press attention:  The New York Times and The Washington Post have written about how access to paid sick leave could interrupt the spread of the virus.  We will hear more about this on the Democratic presidential campaign trail too.

The House Education and Labor Committee will hear testimony on the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1784) next week.  The bill, introduced last year by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), provides for paid and unpaid sick leave for employees.  It requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide employees with at least one hour of earned paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours of paid sick leave in a year.

Senate Democrats press employers for flexibility during outbreak:  Led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), 15 Senate Democrats urged employers to practice flexibility in granting workers paid sick leave.

And just as we go to press:  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) have introduced a bill that would require all employers to provide workers 14 days of paid sick leave that would be available during a public health emergency, including if a workplace is closed, if a child’s school is closed, or if a family member is quarantined.  

“In my home state, people are being told to stay home for two weeks if they are sick,” Murray said. “Guess who can’t stay home if they don’t have child care, if they don’t have sick leave?”

HR Policy members already provide generous paid leave.  According to a recent HR Policy poll, a majority of member companies are expanding paid time off, even in cases where a worker who cannot work from home and is not forced to self-isolate does so due to not feeling well or being part of a higher risk population group.