By Bob Katzen

The Labor and Workforce Development Committee is considering legislation that would guarantee all workers at least 10 additional 8-hour days of job-protected paid sick time for use by employees who are not covered by a similar federal program during the COVID-19 pandemic or future public health emergencies.

Workers would be paid by their employers at their regular level of pay, up to a maximum of $850 per week. Employers would then be fully reimbursed by the state. These 80 hours of paid sick time would be in addition to the 40 hours which each worker currently has under a sick time law signed into law by the governor in 2014.

Supporters said many front-line workers are struggling economically and are without adequate paid sick time. They said the current 2014 law giving 40 hours of paid sick leave is outdated and inadequate in today’s era during these trouble times of uncertainty. They noted that Raise Up Massachusetts led that 2014 campaign to create Massachusetts’ 40-hour total Earned Sick Time Law, but the 40 hours of sick time it provides workers each year doesn’t meet the scale of this major public health crisis.

“Protecting the health and safety of Massachusetts residents is our top priority in this crisis,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “No worker should be forced to come to work when they may be contagious. That is why we need to build on the success of the 2014 earned sick time law and the new federal paid sick time law to ensure that during this public health emergency, all workers have access to the job-protected paid sick time that they so desperately need.”

“In order to ensure that all those who feel sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 can stay home and avoid exposing others to the virus, all workers must have the ability to miss work to care for themselves or their family,” said Anabel Santiago, grassroots coordinator for the Coalition for Social Justice and a member of the Raise Up Massachusetts steering committee (the group leading the charge for the bill). “No worker should face a choice between going to work sick or losing the pay they desperately need to make ends meet. As Massachusetts develops a plan to begin to reopen the economy, it is essential that all workers have access to additional job-protected paid sick time.”

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