Better jobs will happen when we ensure everyone earns a living wage by raising the minimum wage and making sure everyone has access to paid leave, paid sick days, and unemployment insurance.

Sick: Millions of North Carolina workers left out of paid sick days protections as COVID-19 spreads

Millions of North Carolina workers lack paid sick days protections as COVID-19 spreads, forcing them to choose to between earning their paycheck and keeping themselves, their families, and their coworkers healthy. Paid sick leave has long been recognized as a key tool that helps reduce the spread of contagious illnesses in the workplace —sparing coworkers and customers alike—and makes it less likely parents will send sick kids to school or child care.

Given the intensely infectious nature of COVID-19, paid sick days play an essential role in halting the spread of the disease by allowing workers to take time away from work without losing wages. Yet recent federal action on this has fallen significantly short of what the moment requires. Although federal legislation passed in March created paid sick days protections for many workers, it included so many loopholes, exclusions, exemptions, and waivers that between 58 and 83 percent of North Carolina’s workforce—up to 3 million workers—will have no guaranteed access to these vital protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even more troubling, the lack of paid sick days will hit women and workers of color disproportionately hard, as these workers are over-represented in frontline and essential occupations that both lack employer-provided paid sick days and are exempt from the new federal protections. Both state and federal policymakers must close these loopholes soon, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus across large swaths of the state’s workforce.