For most, attendance was taught to be a priority. The American Educational system, in particular, stresses that without near-perfect attendance, it would be impossible to hold a job or manage the business world. As a result, Illness and extemporary circumstances are associated with failure, weakness, and irresponsibility.
However, the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic forced a reshuffling of priorities for businesses and governments across the world as they realized that a humanistic approach to worker policies just might improve the survival rate of their industries.
Now, long-avoided workplace protection policies are being considered and implemented that focus on worker well-being first. However, there are many problems to recognize before true progress can be made in cementing worker’s rights.
Here’s what you need to know.
Recognizing the Problems
Everywhere, workers combat inequality and safety risks due to the lack of protective policies. These obstacles are clear in the data, which shows systemic issues of corporate disdain for low-wage workers as well as dehumanizing conditions that put employees at risk.
Laying the groundwork for better workplace policies requires understanding the problematic circumstances we face. The following is just a sampling of the data regarding workplace inequality in the U.S:
- Income inequality levels are nearing those just before the Great Depression.
- CEOs make over 185 times more than the average worker.
- 750,000 Americans are homeless on a given night, many of them disproportionately male, black, veterans, or individuals with disabilities.
- Women earn about 80% of what men earn.
- 30% of workers in low-wage jobs don’t have health insurance.
- The number of discouraged workers is on the rise and disproportionately includes minorities.
These problems have long been standards of American working environments, and the coronavirus has only served to exacerbate them. With millions of people in the service industry now expected to put their and their loved ones’ health at risk, the wage inequality and limited employee protections have never been so clear.
If any good can come from this realization, it will be in the advancement of solutions for workplace protections for all kinds of issues.
Advancing the Solutions
In the emergency circumstances of the pandemic, the U.S. government elected to pass the CARES Act — legislation that provided working people with some necessary protections. These protections included enhanced unemployment insurance benefits as well as extended family and medical leave provisions. At the same time, many private financial institutions came together to offer deferment plans for many loans and rental programs.
However, these protections are simply patches on systemic problems that are much greater than the pandemic. As millions of American workers lose their employer-tied health insurance plans along with their jobs, many recognize that it is time to institute worker protections on a larger scale.
Luckily, however, literature, science, and proposed legislation are out there attempting to advance solutions to workplace injustices of all kinds. These efforts include:
- A bill of rights for essential workers. This piece of legislation would define health and safety standards for frontline healthcare workers while ensuring paid medical and family leave.
- Expansions to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Right now, the FMLA protects up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a certain group of qualified workers and should be laid out in any business’ policy handbook along with other working-hour and PTO benefits, in order to protect the employee and the business alike. A legal expansion of FMLA benefits might broaden the ability of a worker to earn PTO, leave, and vacation time, protecting their economic status against unfortunate circumstances.
- Public health insurance. Broader public protections, like Medicare-for-All, have been proposed to fill the needs of low-wage workers. Having insurance not tied to employment could help navigate the problems and inequalities that arise in managing workplace illness.
- Robust premium pay. A legally protected living wage that ensures higher pay for workers on the front lines of the service industry—especially in the middle of a health crisis—could combat wage inequality and more fairly support disproportionately affected groups like women and minorities.
While these solutions are sure to be hotly debated by decision-makers, advancing these policies will ensure better protections for all American workers.
After all, the pandemic should have taught us that workers are above all human beings—not machines whose attendance and well-being we can simply demand.
This blog is printed with permission.
About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and technology topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.