(Washington, D.C.) As workers across the country face the challenges of being called back to work during a devastating pandemic while schools and child care providers remain closed, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today announced that the Legal Network for Gender Equity has initiated a new service to help eligible workers secure COVID-19-related caregiving leave.

In March 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which required covered employers to provide two weeks of emergency paid sick days to allow workers to take paid time off due to their own or a family member’s COVID-19 related-illness—and up to 12 weeks paid leave to allow workers to care for a child whose child care provider or school is closed due to the coronavirus. But press reports make clear the Department of Labor has failed to get the word out to businesses and workers about the new benefit. As a result, business owners have described being confused about the benefit and many workers are unaware that the benefit even exists. NWLC has created user-friendly resources for both workers and attorneys that outline the new leave laws. The Legal Network for Gender Equity, which is housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, will connect people who are facing problems getting emergency paid sick days and paid leave for which they are eligible to Network attorneys for a free initial consultation.

Millions of workers at mid-size businesses with 50-500 employees are now eligible for emergency paid sick days and paid leave to care for children. Unfortunately, businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt from these requirements. And businesses with fewer than 50 employees can opt out of providing paid leave and paid sick days to workers who need to care for children.

A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center reveals that nearly two-thirds of the 22.2 million workers in the 40 lowest-paying jobs in the United States are women—and most workers in low-paid jobs lack paid sick and paid leave benefits. Mothers are 74 percent of parents in the low-paid workforce and child care is key to their ability to work. But, now, with many child care facilities, schools and summer camps shut down due to the pandemic, and states reopening businesses, working mothers are facing an impossible situation. How can they earn a paycheck if they don’t have someone to watch their child? The emergency paid leave will provide critical relief for these workers who are eligible to receive them.

“For many women working in low-paid jobs, this will be the first time they’ve ever been eligible for paid leave protections—and these are arriving at an especially critical time,” said Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice.  “The Legal Network for Gender Equity is here to help make sure these workers receive the paid leave they are entitled to—so they can care for themselves and their families without losing a paycheck. The National Women’s Law Center will keep fighting for all working people to have access to paid sick days and paid leave. And we’ll keep advocating for an immediate investment of at least $50 billion for the child care sector to make sure it survives this crisis and serves as the backbone of our economic recovery.”

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