Inequalities At Work And The Toll Of COVID-19

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Workplaces shape risk for exposure to COVID-19 through on-site safety practices, including the provision and required use of personal protective equipment, as well as protective policies such as paid sick leave and the flexibility to work from home.
More than one in every five US workers has no paid sick leave. Recent expansions of paid sick leave coverage still exclude many workers. Low-wage workers are far more likely than their higher-paid counterparts to lack paid sick leave but are the least able to afford to take unpaid time off from work when ill.
Women, people of color, and those of lower socioeconomic status are the most likely among all workers to hold frontline positions that require in-person work and the least likely to have paid sick leave. These groups have disproportionately experienced the negative health and economic consequences of COVID-19.
Women have been disproportionately affected by job loss and the caregiving burdens arising from school and care provider closures, with consequences for their career opportunities, economic security, and mental health.
Governmental action is needed on several fronts: to empower workers by raising wages and providing universal paid sick leave, to strengthen COVID-19 workplace safety mandates and enforcement of workplace safety standards via the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and to prioritize a safe reopening of schools and childcare centers.

Rebecca Wolfe, Kristen Harknett, and Daniel Schneider. “Inequalities At Work And The Toll Of COVID-19, ” Health Affairs Health Policy Brief, June 4, 2021.