Child Health

Families Need Paid Leave During COVID-19 and Beyond

March 1, 2021 | National

Workers should be able to care for their sick child or loved one without fear of missing needed payespecially during this unprecedented time of crisis. 

However, in the US, more than 30 million workers lack any form of paid sick daysincluding nearly 70 percent of the lowest-income workers. Nearly 80 percent of workers do not have access to paid family leave through their employers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the health and economic consequences of limited access to paid leave. Workers are often forced to go to work when they or a loved one is sick because they cannot afford to lose wages or risk job losswhich has significant impacts on public health and individual health and well-being.

Lack of access to paid sick days not only jeopardizes public health and the health of individual workers, it also harms the health and well-being of children. 

Children whose parents lack paid sick days are less likely to receive preventive health care, routine well-child visits, and flu shots. Working parents without paid sick days are far more likely to send a sick child to school or day care and to take their child to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off during their normal work hours.

Ensured access to paid leave is also essential for working towards gender and racial equity. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, workers that are Black, Latino, and women were more likely to hold lower-wage jobs and have limited access to needed paid sick days and paid family leave. In 2019, almost 1 in 2 Latino workers and more than 1 in 3 Black workers reported having no paid time away from work of any kind. 

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, more than half of all families with children have lost income and this economic downturn is hitting workers that are Black, Latino, and women the hardest. Between February and October 2020, 2.2 million women left the workforce, largely due to caregiving responsibilities. As of February 2021, Black and Latino households continue to experience income loss at higher rates than white families whether through job loss or reduced hours (52.8 percent and 59.2 percent compared to 42.4 percent, respectively). As families face even greater financial insecurity amid the pandemic, the impossible choice between staying home to care for yourself or a loved one and getting a needed paycheck becomes even more difficult. 

It’s time to address the economic, racial, and health disparities that were further exacerbated by the pandemic.

Access to paid leave can ensure working parents can recover when they are sick, care for a sick child, and bond with their babies after birth or adoption. Because of this, CDF has supported legislation that ensures workers have access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, especially during a public health emergency including the PAID Leave Act and the Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care Act.

Our nation has the resources to ensure families and children have what they need to thrive. It’s time our leaders invest in paid leave to address gender and racial inequities and ensure our children are healthy and supported.

Visit to learn more about paid leave and other policies that prioritize children and their families in this time of crisis.