More than two years into the pandemic (still not over, President Biden!), there have been nearly 100 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States. In the early part of the pandemic, some workers benefited from a first-ever federal paid sick leave law, and a growing number of states require paid sick leave for many workers. But many workers have had to face COVID-19 with no paid sick time, and as usual, the burden falls most heavily on the workers who already have the least.
Just 38% of the bottom 10% of workers have paid sick days, while 96% of the top 10% have the benefit, the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould writes, highlighting recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. And if you’re in the lowest-paid 10% of workers, you cannot afford to take unpaid time off work without serious sacrifice. Leisure and hospitality is the industry where the lowest percentage of workers—53%—have paid sick leave, even though many of those jobs are public-facing, bringing an increased risk of contracting COVID or any other virus, and an increased risk of passing it on.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.