Staffing firm Aquent announced it is extending paid sick leave to all of its workers, which includes gig workers placed at companies such as Apple and Disney, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Boston-based company said it will apply Massachusetts’ sick policy to about 10,000 individuals working in the 37 states with no current sick-pay requirements, as well as Canada. The policy gives most workers the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of job-protected sick time per year to take care of themselves and certain family members.
Workers will accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The company said it will retroactively apply the standard to Jan. 1. For workers in areas that already have sick-pay requirements, the company will follow the existing law in those jurisdictions.
“Offering benefits is how companies attract and retain the best talent,” said John H. Chuang, CEO of Aquent. “It is also the right thing to do, especially during the COVID-19 health pandemic which has adversely affected the lives of so many workers.”
WorldatWork’s “COVID-19 Employer Response Survey” found that more than a third (37%) of the 1,510 employers surveyed are providing full pay for employees who are unable to work due to illness or caregiving needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of U.S. civilian workers do not have access to paid sick leave. The access rate to medical care benefits for part-time workers was 22%, according to a 2019 report.
Many larger employers have extended paid sick leave to their workers amid COVID-19 and Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to assist companies with 500 employees or less. However, Aquent’s policy is catered toward gig workers who, despite their large presence in the economy, typically don’t have access to traditional benefits offerings.
“While the government has taken some positive steps to help bring relief to businesses and workers, the sick pay provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act leaves millions of workers without coverage,” Chuang said. “Sick pay should cover everyone, especially during a pandemic. My hope is that our actions will serve as a catalyst for companies to treat their extended workforce the same as their full-time employees.”
About the Author
Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.