March 10, 2020

Gillibrand Urges Congress to Expand Mandatory Paid Leave during Public Health Emergencies as Nation Battles Public Health Crisis Caused by Covid-19

The Proposed Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act Would Expand Requirement for Paid Sick Leave Coverage; Bill Would Immediately Provide 14 Days Paid Sick Leave to Qualifying Workers During COVID-19 Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Confronting the nation’s growing public health crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging Congress to pass new legislation to require employers to provide additional paid sick leave during a public health emergency. Currently, many employees have limited or no access to paid sick leave, raising concerns over the ability to make doctor’s visits, quarantine, or stay home if infected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The proposed Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act builds upon current legislation to require paid sick leave coverage for all employees and would expand qualifying events to include the effects of a public health emergency — like school and employer closings, quarantine, and family care. This legislation will address the current crisis and ensure paid sick leave is provided in the future.  

“COVID-19 isn’t just a public health crisis, it’s an economic crisis for millions of working Americans without paid sick leave,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Not only might employees need to stay home for their own health, but school closures will require parents or family members to stay home with children. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a sick child or loved one, especially during public health emergencies. I believe every worker should have two weeks mandatory paid sick leave and I'm proud to support this legislation that prioritizes working families.”  

Experts are telling Americans to stay home if they are sick to reduce interaction with potentially infected persons. Yet, too many Americans do not have the ability to stay home without losing a paycheck. More than 32 million workers in the United States have no paid sick leave. Providing adequate paid sick leave for employees is a vital step in containing and preparing the country for public health emergencies like the coronavirus outbreak. A national paid sick leave program like the Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act is critical to combatting current and future public health crises. In the event of a public health emergency, employers would be required to provide 14 days of paid sick leave that is immediately available as soon as the emergency is declared. The bill would further help combat the risks of community spread by eliminating the need for doctor’s certification to take sick leave during any health emergency. 

The Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act would broaden the list of qualifying events for the use of paid sick leave to include school and employer closures during public health emergencies, and caring for oneself or a family member during quarantine. Additionally, it would also expand upon proposed legislation to require paid sick leave for companies with less than seven employees in addition to large businesses. 

Senator Gillibrand is the foremost champion for paid family and medical leave in the U.S. Senate. In 2013, Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduced the FAMILY Act to create America’s first universal paid family leave program. The FAMILY Act would allow up to three months of paid leave at 66% of one’s income to take sick leave, care for a loved one, or care for a newborn.