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Professor expects businesses will lose employees if they don't offer this

Work stress
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 18:29:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the omicron variant spreads across the Commonwealth, many workers say that they can't afford to stay home if they get infected.

"Kind of just feel like I'm stuck," Payton Raia said.

Raia has been out of work for 19 days after she tested positive for the coronavirus in late December. However, as a waitress, her employer doesn't offer paid sick leave and won't let workers come back until they show a negative test.

"But it was really hard finding a test. You just have to sit at home and realize that you can't pay bills because you can't go to work," Raia said.

Toward the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government helped companies provide staff with 80 hours of paid time off to handle COVID-19 related needs.

However, that has now expired. With the omicron variant spreading, Raia wonders if similar government programs could make a return.

"I don't know how I feel about it. If I feel like it should be the responsibility of the job, the employer or if it should fall on some higher up kind of thing," Raia said.

Old Dominion University Professor Bob McNab said that Congress likely won't act on a measure to reintroduce paid leave due to the coronavirus.

"There's not a lot of political will for that to happen in the short term in Washington D.C.," McNab said.

So now, it's up to individual employers on what to do.

"Higher wage industries, higher skill industries, are offering COVID-related benefits," McNab said. "And lower-wage industries have moved away from these policies."

Some workers have also wondered if they can take advantage of unemployment benefits if they're out of work due to COVID-19. McNab said that's typically only an option for those who end up with a severe case and lose their job because of it.

"We're talking about Social Security disability, but that's still nowhere near the level of income you're probably earning on your job," McNab said.

If businesses, who are already facing staffing shortages, don't offer paid leave for any sickness at all, McNab said it will be hard to keep workers.

"If they are with an employer who is now saying, no more sick time or you just have to take your own personal time, that's just another strong incentive for them to seek employment elsewhere," McNab said.

Meanwhile, Raia said that she'll be waiting tables again next week and will be doing extra to make up for her lost wages.

"I'm typically the kind of person that works a couple of doubles a week anyways so that's definitely going to be what I strive for. Hopefully, there's some light at the end of the tunnel," Raia said.