Healthcare

Fed: 20 percent of workers have no paid leave if they get COVID-19

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One out of every five workers would have no paid or sick leave of any kind in the event that they or a family member are diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank.

“Workers who lack paid leave are more likely to face financial hardships or deplete financial resources if they become sick with coronavirus symptoms,” the Fed wrote in its report on the survey

One of the first laws Congress passed in response to the pandemic, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, required employers to offer two weeks of sick leave for those quarantined or sick with COVID-19, and partial pay for those taking care of someone under quarantine or children with canceled school. 

However the act only applied to companies with fewer than 500 workers, and offered exclusions to some smaller businesses with fewer than 50 workers. 

The Fed conducted the supplementary survey in April to get a glimpse of how COVID-19 was affecting people’s finances, adding its results to its 2019 report on economic well being. 

The results indicated in the survey are likely to have become more dire in the month that’s passed since the survey took place, as millions of people lost their jobs and hundreds of thousands were infected with the virus. 

The survey found that better-educated people were more likely to have paid sick or vacation days available than those with less education, indicating that the poor were likely to face less flexibility in the event they became sick. 

“Sixty-four percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or more said that they had at least two weeks of leave, while 42 percent of adults with a high school degree or less said that they could take off at least two weeks without a reduction in income,” the report noted.

An average of 53 percent of Americans said they had two weeks or more of paid leave available to them if necessary, while 17 percent had between one and two weeks and 8 percent had less than one week. The final 20 percent had no leave available at all.

The survey found other indications that the poorest were being hit harder by the pandemic. It found that among people earning less than $40,000, 39 percent had already lost their jobs in March.

Those job losses reduced the chances of seeking medical care, even for those who had symptoms of COVID-19.

“Those who experienced a job loss or reduced hours were more likely not to contact a doctor because of costs (8 percent), relative to those who had not (3 percent),” the report found.

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