Where paid sick leave was provided on an emergency basis during the pandemic, such policies prevented approximately one COVID-19 case per day for every 1,300 workers.

The stark inequities in America’s economic and health systems have been revealed again in a new Health Affairs study, which shows how the US continues to be one of the only countries in the world without a guaranteed paid sick leave option for many workers—including some deemed essential during a pandemic.

The paper compared the U.S. system, regulated by the 1993 U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to paid sick leave policies in 193 countries around the world. FMLA provides job protections for sick workers but does not provide paid leave. The study found that FMLA’s hourly work and tenure requirements fail workers by creating unequal treatment for women and people of color, because they are more likely to work jobs that are excluded from FMLA protections.

 

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