Despite the COVID-19 vaccine being free to all and made widely available, daily vaccine distribution throughout the country has fallen. According to a recent report, many unvaccinated adults, including a majority of unvaccinated Black and Latinx adults, cite concerns about missing work as an impediment to obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine. Paid leave will play a crucial role in ensuring that people in the U.S. continue to get vaccinated.
Across the country, there is a wide racial gap in vaccine rates—the same can be said of worker access to paid sick leave. According to the CDC, Latinx and Black people represent 17.2% and 12.4% of the U.S. population, respectively, but only represent 13% and 8.6% of the group of the population that has been fully vaccinated. However, white people represent 61.2% of the U.S. population, but are a disproportionate 63.2% of people who have been fully vaccinated. And while the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 59% of white employees have access to paid sick leave, just a slight majority of Black employees (54.9%) and an unconscionably low 36.5% of Latinx employees have access to paid sick leave. Black and Latinx workers are also disproportionately representative of essential workers who have risked their lives every day at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Congress is currently considering legislation to establish a federal paid sick leave law, many states, cities, and counties have already taken action to ensure that workers have paid time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and recover from related immune responses. Workers in a number of states and localities may be able to accrue paid sick leave that can be used to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, recover from related immune responses, and help covered family members access and recover from the COVID-19 vaccine. And certain workers in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York State, Los Angeles County, and Philadelphia may be entitled—or soon entitled—to additional paid time off specifically related to the COVID-19 vaccine. A Better Balance has worked on many of these paid sick leave laws, and we are continuing to work around the country—and at every level of government—to advance permanent and COVID-19 emergency paid leave.
In cities and states without a paid sick leave law on the books, many employers can still provide paid leave to receive and recover from the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to themselves. Under the federal American Rescue Plan, employers with fewer than 500 employees—and state and local governments regardless of size—may receive federal tax credits to cover the cost of providing workers with paid time off related to certain kinds of COVID-19 related leave. For more information on these voluntary tax credits, click here and here.
For years, A Better Balance has teamed up with other advocates to enact paid leave for all, and the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to prove just how critical paid leave is for all workers. We will continue our work to ensure that all working individuals in the United States have a right to paid sick leave to care for themselves and their loved ones, including for COVID-19 purposes.