A new KFF analysis finds that at least 69.4 million adult American workers – approximately four in 10 – are potentially ineligible for emergency paid sick leave benefits. Approximately 25% of those workers (17.7 million workers) are in the health care industry. Seventy-five percent of excluded or exempted health care workers are women.
The new emergency paid sick leave benefit that took effect in April as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act guarantees eligible workers up to 80 hours of paid leave for a health issue arising from coronavirus. However, the emergency paid sick leave provisions leave out a large swath of American workers by excluding those at private businesses with 500 or more employees, and offering broad exemptions for employers of emergency responders and health care workers regardless of firm size. Lack of comprehensive paid sick leave could result in workers having to choose between forgoing income or risking exposing their patients and colleagues to coronavirus.
Most (85%) health care and social assistance firms offer some form of paid leave as an employee benefit, but these programs typically require accrual and allow for an average of 7 to 8 days of sick leave, which is fewer than the number of days recommended by the CDC for recovery and quarantine from COVID-19. Fifteen percent of workers in these industries do not have any paid leave at all.