Congress introduces COVID-prompted emergency bill requiring paid leave

Congress is pushing for immediate paid leave due to COVID-19 concerns

Posted March 16, 2020

On March 6, 2020, democrats in the House and the Senate introduced new emergency paid sick leave legislation, building off the Healthy Families Act (HFA), to provide paid sick days immediately to workers in light of the coronavirus crisis, and in preparation for future public health emergencies.

This measure would require all employers to allow employees to accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis.

While the CDC guidelines advise people to stay home if they are sick, many workers are unable to perform their jobs from home. Therefore, doing so would result in losing pay.

Because of this, the measure is designed to specifically:

  • Require all employers to allow workers to gradually earn seven days of paid sick leave.
  • Require all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis.
  • Ensure paid sick leave covers days when your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when your employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency.

The measure has been added to the Healthy Families Act (S 840), which was reintroduced last March, and has been introduced in Congress since 2004. The legislators are arguing that without paid sick leave, the U.S. could have a harder time containing the spread of the disease.

The House Committee on Education & Labor’s subcommittee on Workforce Protections have scheduled a meeting on this issue for March 11. Will the threat of the COVID-19 be the straw that breaks the federal paid employee leave back?

In related activity, that same subcommittee called on Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Eugene Scalia to direct OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard in response to the emerging COVID-19 epidemic.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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