US lawmakers propose bill promising paid sick days due to coronavirus

Many workers are advised to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of the virus, but workers who lack paid sick days will essentially forfeit a day's pay.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) administers the oath of office to House members and delegates of the U.S. House of Representatives at the start of the 116th Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019 (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) administers the oath of office to House members and delegates of the U.S. House of Representatives at the start of the 116th Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Democrats in Congress introduced a bill guaranteeing that workers can take a paid sick day if needed, the Huffington Post reported.
The bill requires employers to grant 14 paid sick days to be used in a public health emergency. These sick days could also be used by workers if either their workplace or their child's school is closed, as well as if they or a relative are quarantined.
In addition, workers would separately receive the seven sick days accrued over the course of the year.
The bill was introduced by Washington Sen. Patty Murray in the Senate and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro in the House.
Though it is implemented in local laws by cities and states, paid sick days are currently not covered by any federal law. This has become especially prominent as of late, due to the coronavirus outbreak spreading more aggressively throughout the US. As of Friday, over 200 people in the US were infected, with over 100,000 infected worldwide.
Many workers are advised to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of the virus, but many workers who lack paid sick days – which is an estimated 27% of workers in the private sector, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – will essentially forfeit a day's pay. However, if they do clock in at work, they risk infecting their co-workers and customers. Most of these workers are clustered in low-wage jobs in the service industry, such as retail and food. This means they work in environments where they are in constant contact with co-workers and customers, making the risk of spreading the infection exponentially higher.
Other industries have less of an issue, with many large employers such as tech companies IBM and Facebook encouraging workers to stay at home, the Huffington Post reported. The report added that in addition, white-collar employees as well as those in managerial positions tend to have greater access to sick days.
Those who support a nationwide standard for paid sick days usually cite public health and social justice, but the coronavirus has brought a macroeconomic argument. Essentially, millions of workers wouldn't be getting paid, and this could lead to further damage on an economy already suffering from declining stock market values and slower supply lines.
Paid sick days have always been popular among Americans, but the supporters of the bill have argued that it is more relevant than ever before. It is expected that the bill will pass through the House – in which the Democrats have a majority – should it come to a vote. However, it is unlikely to easily pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
Despite this, Sen. Murray urged her colleagues to pass the bill "without delay."
“Workers want to do the right thing for themselves, their families, and their communities,” she said in a statement, according to the Huffington Post. “So especially in the middle of public health crises like this, staying home sick shouldn’t have to mean losing a paycheck or a job.”
The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and has since spread over the world, infecting over 100,000 people. The virus has caused many workplaces to be shut down, and forced millions of people to work from home or miss work entirely.


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