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COVID-19 pandemic: New report part of Democrats’ push for universal paid sick leave

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Photo: tupungato/iStockphoto

Washington — Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee have issued a report detailing what they call “gaps” in paid sick leave among U.S. workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Released July 22, the report offers data and expert opinion on the “health and economic costs of gaps” in paid sick leave. The lawmakers claim that 1 out of 4 U.S. workers – or around 36 million people – don’t have access to paid sick leave. They also say the United States is the only “high-income” country in the world without universally mandated paid sick leave or family leave.

Other key statistics included in the report:

  • Although almost all workers at large U.S. corporations have paid sick leave, less than two-thirds of employees at organizations with fewer than 50 workers have access to it.
  • More than 90% of the highest wage earners have paid sick leave, but only 30% of the lowest wage earners do.
  • 58% of service sector workers and 45% of workers in the hotel and food service industries have access to paid sick leave.
  • Workers who don’t have access to paid sick leave are three times more likely to go to work sick, delay seeking medical attention or forgo medical care altogether.

“One of the many things that this pandemic has made clear is that paid sick leave should be a right for all workers, not a benefit left to the discretion of employers,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair of the committee, said in a press release. “We all have an overwhelming interest in making paid sick leave universal, so Americans do not have to risk exposing their co-workers and consumers to the coronavirus and other illnesses out of fear of getting fired or forgoing pay.”


An addendum to the report features more than 50 stories from workers who were on the front lines during the early weeks of the public health crisis.

The release highlights the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) – passed by the House on May 15 and at press time awaited action in the Senate – which would extend emergency paid sick leave to millions of additional workers, including those in health care and emergency response.

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