The pandemic has brought home a fact that many of us already knew – the majority of independent retailers (employees and owners alike) do not have access to the type of paid family and medical leave common in many European countries. This means that someone with a serious illness may not be able to afford to stay home to prevent contagion.

In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by employees coming to work sick, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law on March 11, 2021. This bill extends and expands the fully refundable tax credits in the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA.) But these credits for COVID-related paid leave have only been extended through September 30 of this year at this time, and they do not cover the myriad of other reasons that employees might need to be on leave to be safe.

An organization called Small Business for Paid Family & Medical Leave is working to make the coverage both ongoing and more inclusive. Their goal is to have federal lawmakers create “a robust permanent paid family and medical leave program, like the FAMILY Act. This will make Main Street stronger in all our communities – rural, urban, and suburban; white, Black, and brown – across the country.”

There is no doubt that being able to take time off to care for yourself or your family is essential to everyone’s wellbeing. We also don’t want other contagious diseases brought into our stores, even once COVID is no longer a threat. But the question is how best to provide this option.

According the the Small Business for Paid Family & Medical Leave site, existing state programs demonstrate that leave programs don’t increase costs for small businesses, and that implementation is manageable. The creation of a national paid leave will be a challenge to fund and administer, but the benefits to us as shopkeepers would be significant. Not only would it provide an attractive benefit as we struggle to recruit and retain employees, but paid leave would also help us demonstrate that we respect our staff members’ commitments to good health at home as well as at work.

You can support the efforts of the Small Business for Paid Family & Medical Leave by contacting your legislators, and by joining their ranks on the “Take Action” page on their website. Their goal is to give you the resources you need to take action to make our federal policy regarding medical leave more humane, and our workplaces safer.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder