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Coronavirus puts spotlight on paid sick leave: Health or a paycheck?

Millions of American workers who don’t have paid sick leave could face an impossible choice if they suspect they are infected with coronavirus: their health or their livelihood.

Concerns are growing that workers who cannot afford to stay home will accelerate the spread of the virus, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended employers “ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance.”

Yet, even in this fast-moving crisis that has collapsed markets around the world, many still do without it. From home health care aides to restaurant employees, one in 4 U.S. workers – more than 32 million – have no paid sick days. According to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7 in 10 low-wage workers do not receive paid sick leave. Some American workers don’t even have the option to take unpaid sick leave, forcing them to either clock in and risk the health of customers and co-workers or forfeit their paycheck and possibly their positions.

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