We Still Urgently Need National Paid Leave: Voices from Our Helpline

Hear from workers across the country who got in touch with A Better Balance through our helpline on why paid leave is a critically important protection as they weather the pandemic.

The COVID pandemic has laid bare the care crisis in this country. And nowhere is that clearer than in the need workers and families have for paid leave when they are sick or need to care for others—it is an urgent matter of gender equity, racial justice, and public health. We urgently need to ensure that paid leave is part of COVID-19 relief efforts.

As we highlighted in our report, “Save Families First: Workers’ Voices & the Need for Action,” A Better Balance has been hearing through our free legal helpline from workers across the country for whom, when they or a loved one are sick with COVID-19, access to emergency paid leave made the difference between losing a job and staying attached to the workforce when they need income the most. Unfortunately, Congress allowed emergency paid leave to expire in December, leaving millions of workers and their families with little recourse as they care for themselves and their loved ones.

We are pleased that President Biden announced his support for not only reinstating federal emergency paid leave, but expanding this critical protection to cover all workers. Now, it is time for Congress to act without delay to listen to workers across the country to guarantee paid leave for all.

Below are some quotes from workers across the country who got in touch with A Better Balance through our helpline on why paid leave is a critically important protection as they weather the pandemic:

Tiffany, a Certified Nursing Assistant in Missouri, on being denied access to emergency paid sick leave as a frontline worker: 

“How can you say that people on the front lines don’t have to be paid if they get sick? You’re telling me that I’m out here risking my life and sacrificing my family’s health, and I don’t have to be paid when I get sick? It’s sad because, as CNAs, we’re the life of everything.”

Becca, a working parent in Ohio, on the impossible choices faced by single parents:

“I’m a single parent. If we can’t provide for our children, who else is going to do it for us? I’m the only one that provides for my child. Being sick is not something I can afford, and obviously I cannot go to work with covid.”

Amanda, a teacher’s aide in New Jersey, on the challenges of importance of supporting children during remote learning:

Amanda’s daughter is in the fifth grade. Her school is closed down and remote due to the pandemic. Amanda was able to take 12 weeks of emergency family leave under the FFCRA to supervise her daughter’s virtual learning. However, she exhausted 12 weeks and her daughter is still doing remote learning.

“I feel it’s very important for parents to be at home with their children during remote learning. They’re not going to be successful on their own. I’ve seen it with my daughter. With the limited instruction she’s getting, she really needs someone to help her and give examples.”

Adam, a healthcare worker in Indiana, on the world of difference being granted paid sick leave while under quarantine made:

 “…I requested and was granted a zoom call with our head of HR.  The morning after my meeting, the company changed their policy and retroactively paid me EPSL, and returned my accrued PTO for the time I was quarantined due to my wife’s positive covid test. I was shocked and very happy.  I would not have had the courage to face this without your guidance and help.  Not only did this make things right by me, it also opened the door for many of my coworkers who were also denied paid leave for covid reasons.  I feel so much more appreciated as a health care worker, because of this policy change.”

Thank you for joining us in telling Congressional leadership that they must ensure workers can access the paid leave they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe!

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