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Workers without paid leave are quitting at higher rates during the pandemic, report finds

Employees at some of the nation’s largest companies who didn’t have sick pay or family leave quit at significantly higher rates than other workers during the pandemic, according to a congressional report released Tuesday – the latest indication of how the absence of social safety net policies in the United States has affected the workforce.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released the report based on internal data from 12 major companies: AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Boeing, Chevron, Cisco, Citigroup, Comcast, ExxonMobil, Oracle, Salesforce, Walmart and The Walt Disney Co. (Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

These internal data are generally not available to investigators and researchers studying workplace equity. The Democratic-led committee selected the companies based on reports that each has seen more than 1,000 layoffs during the pandemic. Republicans on the committee did not participate in the report.

Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third House Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee, said the report highlights the need for a universal paid vacation program.

“Working Americans deserve to know that no matter what crisis they face, they won’t have to choose between feeding their families and taking care of themselves and their loved ones,” he said. said in a statement.

Leave and retention

Most companies surveyed by the committee said they offered paid sick leave to all workers, but a quarter did not. The report found that workers without paid sick leave quit three to four times more than comparable workers between 2019 and 2021.

Part-time workers fare particularly poorly, with 55% having no access to paid sick leave, compared to 14% of full-time workers, according to Labor Department statistics cited in the report. The report did not break down the results by company.

The study found similar results looking at workers on family and care leave. When workers took advantage, they quit at lower rates and saw higher rates of raises and promotions.

The report offers another insight into how the fault lines of race, gender and class have revealed themselves as inequalities in the labor market during the coronavirus crisis. Experts said the lack of strong protections for many frontline workers – such as sick pay and strict safety precautions against Covid-19 – contributed to the country’s struggle to contain the virus during the first two years of the pandemic, and the disproportionate burdens faced by minority and low-income populations.

The United States and South Korea are the only two members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — a group that represents 38 countries, including most of the world’s major economies — with no national requirement for paid leave for the workers. About a quarter of workers in the United States do not have paid sick leave, a proportion that is higher among low-wage workers.

Congress created a temporary paid sick leave requirement for companies with 50 to 500 employees at the start of the pandemic, but that mandate expired at the end of 2020. After Democrats won back the White House and the Senate, They pushed to make family leave policies permanent, but removed those provisions from the law during contentious negotiations last year.

“Workers who are the most vulnerable overall on the basis of race or whether they are hourly employees, suffer the most when times get tough, whether we’re talking about the pandemic or anything else,” said Rebecca Givan, associate professor of labor studies. at Rutgers University. “Employers are not doing anything about it.”

time sharing

The report also underscores a point that some labor activists have been making since complaints about labor shortages began to dominate policy discussions mid-last year: low pay and lack of benefits. social factors have been factors in increased workforce attrition and recruitment challenges during the pandemic.

In the Congress report, salaried workers — who generally enjoy more benefits and stability — fare better than hourly workers within companies. Hourly workers were fired more frequently and were more likely to quit, according to the study.

Among black workers, for example, hourly workers were laid off at higher rates than their salaried counterparts 75% of the time, while Latino hourly workers were laid off at higher rates than Latino workers 44% of the time. .

This divide between salaried and hourly workers has highlighted other existing disparities in the workplace. Women working by the hour performed worse than men working by the hour 30% of the time, but among salaried workers the difference was less than 10%. Women paid by the hour were much less likely to see wage increases, compared to their male counterparts, than salaried women.

Black and Asian hourly workers were less likely to be promoted than their white counterparts, while black hourly workers were fired at higher rates than whites.


Workers 55 or older were 17% more likely to find themselves unemployed in the first six months of the pandemic than younger workers, according to a previous AARP study, and job loss within this demographic was most often involuntary, the report notes. . Data from the Congressional survey confirmed these early numbers, showing that workers over 50 quit, quit or retired at lower rates than younger workers between 2019 and 2021.

The subcommittee called for better data from businesses and federal agencies on workforce demographics and benefits and said a universal paid vacation program was essential for the country.

“A universal paid sick leave program would be especially beneficial for hourly workers, who often don’t have the option of staying home when sick,” he said. “Ensuring that all American workers have access to these benefits would also improve the nation’s preparedness for any future health crises.”

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