Workplace Measures Against Coronavirus Including Paid Sick Leave are Crucial

photo: NIAID - Flickr CC

With some 90,000 people in dozens of countries currently infected by the COVID 19 virus, the ITUC is calling for urgent measures to ensure that workers who show symptoms can take sick leave without fear of losing their jobs or their incomes, and receive free health care. With the WHO warning of “very high risk of global spread and impact” of the disease, workplaces are frontlines in combatting its proliferation.

“The WHO is warning of very high risk of global spread and impact of the virus, and workplaces are at the centre of containment and mitigation efforts. Many millions of people around the world have no right to take sick leave or face financial ruin if they have to go into isolation. That exposes them, their colleagues and the public to the risk of serious disease and can only accelerate its spread. Along with all the other urgent measures required, governments need to ensure that employers provide time off without penalty for people who have symptoms, and to fill the gaps in social protection that make it difficult for people to stop work when they are sick. Never has the need for paid sick leave been more evident,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

While the infection risk is highest for health workers, especially where protective equipment and facilities are lacking or sub-standard, other sectors in particular where large numbers of people gather or are in transit can also be major vectors for transmission.

“COVID 19 is becoming a global crisis, and governments need to respond accordingly, including by bolstering health systems which in many countries have been under-funded for years. With the OECD warning that global economic growth could be halved, the secondary consequences of the spread of the virus are likely to be very serious. Global, multilateral cooperation is essential to combatting the spread of the virus, and to dealing with the consequences. It is good that the G7 countries have announced they will take concerted action, and the G20 and other multilateral fora should do so as well,” said Burrow.