BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 11, 2020)—A new piece of legislation could put a financial burden on home health agencies. The bill, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, would mandate employers allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick leave and have 14 days available during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Specifically this bill would:

  • Require all employers to allow workers to gradually earn seven days of paid sick leave.
  • Require all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis.
  • Ensure that paid sick leave covers days when a person's child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, their employer is closed due to public health emergency, or they or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency.

“The lack of paid sick days could make coronavirus harder to contain in the United States compared with other countries that have universal sick leave policies in place,” DeLauro said in a statement. “No one should face the impossible choice of caring for their health or keeping their paycheck or job, especially when a sudden public health crisis occurs.”

The Centers for Disease Control has encouraged workers to work from home when possible, but for home health workers, that isn’t always easy, as patients need care; they may also be dependent on hourly wages. Juggling the needs of employees and patients can be difficult.

Mandated sick leave could pose a financial burden for homecare companies, however, said Angelo Spinola, shareholder and co-chair of the homecare and home health practice groups at Littler Mendelson.

"When there’s a cost to the provider that’s not funded by the government, it lands on the consumer," he told HomeCare in a statement. "You will see some companies not complying with the law while others will pass the cost on to the consumer. This additional requirement alone may not put an agency out of business. But these additional regulatory burdens are one of the reasons there is so much consolidation within the industry."

Home health agencies are also working to meet Fair Labor Standards Act requirements and state and local laws, some of which already have paid sick leave requirements.

"The employee always gets the benefit of what the better outcome is. Some jurisdictions are very employee friendly, so to the extent that this is more favorable, you would have to give the caregiver whatever the better deal is," Spinola added.

For more resources on the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, turn to the National Association of Home Health & Hospice resource page here, and stay tuned to HomeCare for the latest.

Updated March 12 with edits to Angelo Spinola's statements.