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Averted rail strike puts focus on paid sick leave

The trend toward employees wanting paid leave continues

Posted December 9, 2022

Employees’ desire for having paid sick leave as a workplace benefit took center stage again recently. Last week, Congress approved a bill that ended a dispute between railroad workers and rail companies.

The bill resolved (for now) several workplace issues and helped avoid what would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time of the year if the rail workers had gone on strike.

On signing the bill December 2, President Biden indicated “we still have more work to do, in my view, in terms of ultimately getting paid sick leave not just for rail workers but for every worker in America.”

The bill includes the following wins for rail workers:

  • A 24 percent wage increase over the next five years,
  • Improved working conditions and health care, and
  • Three unpaid days off for medical appointments.

What didn’t make the cut and was a sticking point in the collective bargaining — seven days of paid sick leave.

What the future holds for paid sick leave benefits

The President went on to say, given that paid sick leave was the one thing the bill was lacking, “…we’re going to get that one thing done before it’s all over.” He did not, however, provide details on how that would be accomplished.

The House voted in favor of a separate, additional piece of legislation that would have added the seven paid sick leave days per year for the rail workers, but that measure did not pass the Senate.

Investors are stepping in and putting pressure on the rail companies to provide the paid sick leave. The lack of the leave could cause rail employees to look for other jobs, which could still negatively impact the rail industry and the overall economy.

The current employment market has spurred some companies to improve employee benefits to attract and retain talent, and paid leave is an often referred-to benefit that employees want.

How does the FMLA fit in?

Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for job-protected, unpaid leave to employees if they meet certain eligibility criteria and take leave for qualifying reasons. Because FMLA leave doesn’t provide compensation when employees take time off, it can be a challenge for employees to make ends meet while taking care of themselves or family members.

This article was written by Darlene Clabault of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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