Labor unions asking employers to extend sick leave during coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus Local Impact

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the number of coronavirus cases grows, some companies are taken precautions to protect employees. Mass Mutual said all employees that are able to will begin working from home on Monday, March 16.

But, not every worker in western Massachusetts has the option to work from home, and missing work because of an illness could be disastrous.

“I live a lot of the world, paycheck to paycheck,” said Helen Hillman of Springfield. “That would affect me greatly if I couldn’t work. I get some paid sick leave, but not a lot.”

Now, a local labor union is asking employers to do some things to take some of the stress away from workers who don’t get much sick time.

“We are asking for an additional seven days for those who qualify under the Massachusetts sick time law,” said Jeff Jones, president of the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation. “We are asking employers with 11 employees or less to continue to pay their employees should that employee have to miss work.”

The law says companies with less than 11 employees don’t have to offer paid sick leave.

Beginning this year, Massachusetts residents and employers started paying into the state’s paid family and medical leave program. But those benefits won’t be available until 2021, which doesn’t provide much help during the current coronavirus crisis.

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