What Will Journalists Do
Now That Paid Sick Leave
For COVID Isn't Guaranteed?

What Will Journalists Do Now That Paid Sick Leave For COVID Isn't Guaranteed?

Written by Lois Lane
🕒 January 07, 2021

In the world of journalism, working on the front-lines at protests and hospitals, packed with sick patients, means photographers, reporters and anchors, have a much higher risk of contracting COVID.

Until now, employees who tested positive for COVID were entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Unfortunately, that legislation expired Dec. 31, 2020, along with 80 hours of guaranteed paid sick leave for millions of Americans.

This means that now employees are only entitled to time off from work, for COVID related reasons, if they qualify for unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time or unpaid sick leave. Otherwise, journalists who become sick with the virus are expected to use paid time off or vacation days.

One major concern is that the COVID vaccine, which is now only being distributed in limited quantities, won’t be widely available for several months.

This leaves millions of reporters, photographers and field producers vulnerable to catching the virus, without any guaranteed time off from work if they do become sick.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is now lobbying for journalists to be prioritized to receive early rounds of the vaccine. “While others have the option to walk away from large crowds, or to avoid members of the public that don’t follow CDC health guidelines, visual journalists repeatedly put their own safety at risk to document what is occurring and inform their communities, large and small,” the NPPA wrote in its letter.

Of course, employers are encouraged to communicate with staff members about their plan to address this major issue. But we all know there are several toxic newsroom managers that don’t listen to concerns from employees.

Many newsrooms are already short staffed, underpaid and overworked. Sadly, a few journalists went to social media to share the details of how their managers are cutting safety corners to make sure the newscast isn’t interrupted. 

This means field crews now have to take on the responsibility of discussing health and safety protocols with human resources for themselves. 

You can find additional information about the FFCRA employee paid leave by visiting the U.S. Department of Labor Website.

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