Right now, our country and the world are experiencing a public health crisis that we were not prepared to handle. It is obvious that COVID-19 is causing many changes in our communities and workplaces and that the effects of this pandemic are something that we will continue to experience in the coming weeks, months, and maybe years. However, not all changes that will result from COVID-19 will be negative. As we have seen over the past few weeks, more and more workplaces have adopted or expanded their paid leave benefits as a response to COVID-19.
As this public health crisis grows so does the need for paid leave. It is interesting to see how this pandemic is transforming the way people, elected leaders, and employers look at paid leave for their employees. Over the last few years, the debate on benefits and disadvantages of offering paid leave became a hot topic and now it is at the top of everyone’s mind. Studies have shown that there are benefits to employers that provide paid leave, such as: reducing job turnover, reducing presenteeism (which is defined as “being present at the job but performing at a reduced capacity due to illness or injury”), reducing the frequency of workplace injury, and allowing employees to receive preventive health care which helps reduce the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums. Yet, these incentives should not be the only reason to offer paid leave benefits to employees. The American workforce is changing and the value that employees place on a work/life balance has increased.
Moreover, what we are experiencing today is impacting the mental wellbeing of our communities. The absence of this policy is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of employees during this time. As Tonya Vyhlidal from The Wellbeing Partners discussed in her blog post, COVID-19 and Social Embracing, this is affecting everyone and specifically affecting mental health and wellbeing. We are facing uncertainty because we do not know when we will be back at our place of employment, when our lives will return to normal, or when we will be able to see our friends and family. It is something that is scary, and we must acknowledge that this uncertainty is just one more thing that places burden on employees and their mental wellbeing. By providing paid leave during COVID-19, employees can take time off when they are sick which helps reduce the risk of spread. This practice is being recommended to worksites as a response to COVID-19 in conjunction with advising workers to stay home if they are sick, using telehealth services, and using wellness programs to educate on hygiene and disease prevention. When employers provide paid leave, they give the opportunity to their employees to take care of themselves and their family and not have to worry about their paycheck. It allows employees to prioritize their lives and their wellbeing instead of their work.
Here at The Wellbeing Partners, our CEO, COO, and our Board of Directors worked quickly to respond and implement an Employee Emergency Leave plan. As an employee, I can take up to 80 hours of paid Employee Emergency Leave to take care of myself or a family member during this time. This means a lot to me because I can help my sister with her schoolwork, and I can take care of myself and my mental wellbeing. It is important to me to acknowledge that I am lucky and privileged to be able to prioritize my mental health and wellbeing, because not everyone is able to do this. I am grateful that my employer prioritizes my wellbeing.
As I stated before, I believe that there will be positive changes that come from this crisis. I see this in organizations here in Omaha that mobilized and put in policies in place for their employees to be able to work from home and take paid leave. We have already seen changes take place federally with the implementation of The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) which is in effect now until the end of the year. I hope that in the future, everyone has access to paid leave benefits because it is good for business but even better for people and families.
Please take care of yourself and if you are in need of resources please visit our portal where you will be able to find COVID-19 resources.
I’m sending all the positive vibes your way,