The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials recommend that people who are sick with COVID-19 should stay home and that employers should consider implementing a telecommuting program when possible. Benefits such as sick leave and family leave can help employees follow these guidelines. However, the U.S. does not have national standards on paidfamily or sick leave. Our current system is a patchwork of policies that are determined by employers, state and local laws, or negotiated through labor contracts. Offer rates vary between employers, the reasons for needing leave, and the employment status of their workers. The lack of a national policy means some employees are forced to take unpaid leave, or come to work when they are ill. The lack of paid leave disproportionately impacts certain populations, including low-income persons, who are less likely to have access to these benefits, and could have public health consequences if people cannot afford to take time off. Lack of paid leave also has a large impact on women, who take on the bulk of health care responsibilities for their family members and may have to miss work as a result.
While there have been previous congressional efforts to create a uniform national floor for paid leave, this issue has gained new urgency with efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. Since the outbreak began in the U.S., the President has signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as well as the C.A.R.E.S. Act. These laws include the following emergency short-term paid sick leave benefits and longer-term paid family leave policies.