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Senators: Employers need to offer flexibility with coronavirus

(© W. Scott McGill –

A group of U.S. senators, led by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is urging employers to commit to flexible sick-time policies in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to major industry groups, which together represent thousands of major companies employing millions of Americans, the senators wrote: “As the United States mobilizes to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we write to urge your member companies to prioritize their employees’ health, economic well-being, and security during this response. The companies you represent are some of the largest, most high profile companies in the United States.  The broader business community watches their actions closely and we believe they have an opportunity, and an obligation, to lead in this moment.

“No one should be penalized by their employer or put in any financial duress for following CDC guidance,” the letter continued. “To that end, we encourage your member companies to commit to ensure that any employees or contractors who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities can count on basic protections like preservation of their employment status and basic financial forbearance.”

Specifically, the senators called on employers to:

  • Ensure that workers will not lose their jobs if they are forced to self-quarantine or stay home to care for a sick family member.
  • Not require employees under quarantine to deplete sick or annual leave.
  • Offer flexible scheduling options, including telework and unscheduled leave, if employees are unable to report to work.
  • Ensure workers have access to financial assistance in the event of a sustained or widespread disruption due to coronavirus.
  • And work with insurance providers to ensure that workers can affordably access preventive care and treatment for coronavirus.