76% of Consumers Believe Coronavirus Emergency Paid Leave Should be Expanded

Some workers may not be eligible for paid leave under new coronavirus law
Capitol Hill

Workers overwhelmingly support a new federal law that provides paid leave to employees for reasons related to COVID-19, but many want the law to go even further, a new survey shows.

Workplace issues and efforts to protect employees have taken center stage as the novel coronavirus and its resulting illness COVID-19 have spread across the United States. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law March 18, 2020, is one such effort and it requires certain employers to provide paid sick or family leave to those who can’t work due to quarantine, illness or other reasons related to COVID-19.

To get an idea of workers’ perceptions about the new law, women’s advocacy organization LeanIn.org text surveyed 2,753 adults between March 20-21, 2020. Not only do workers support the legislation, but many would like to see it expanded even more.

Some employees fall through the cracks

An overwhelming majority of respondents — 95% — said at least some workers should be eligible for paid leave during the COVID-19 crisis. Women (97%) are slightly more in favor of emergency paid leave than men (92%).

The FFCRA is a good first step to providing that paid leave access, according to the 73% of respondents who support the legislation, but many believe the law falls short in some key areas.

For example, 76% of respondents believe the law does not support enough people. Under the FFCRA, the paid leave requirement only applies to businesses that have between 50 and 499 employees. That means some workers who are most impacted by COVID-19, such as healthcare workers and first responders, could end up being ineligible for paid leave if they work for a company that has more or fewer than that number of workers. In those instances, the worker would have to depend on their employer to step up and offer paid leave anyway.

Among survey respondents:

  • 77% say health care workers should have guaranteed access to paid sick days
  • 75% support paid leave for emergency responders
  • 72% want paid leave for grocery workers
  • 71% are in favor of paid leave for pharmacy workers
  • 71% expressed support for paid leave for childcare workers
  • 66% said restaurant workers should have paid leave

Hourly workers want more

While the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting workplaces of all types, hourly workers are being hit particularly hard. Hourly workers were most likely to believe the FFCRA doesn’t go far enough, with 83% feeling that way. Also, workers who make less than $50,000 were more likely to want paid leave to be expanded, with 83% of respondents feeling that way.

Many respondents said they feel so strongly about expanding paid leave that it will affect what they do in the voting booth. For example, 68% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate if that person voted to give all workers paid leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the different parties, 82% of Democrats would be more likely to vote for a candidate that voted to expand sick leave compared to 59% of Republicans and 55% of Independents.

With the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolving so rapidly, changes are being announced frequently to help workers deal with the risks. If you don’t know whether your employer is obligated to offer paid leave due to the FFCRA, contact your manager to find out what steps you should take if you are unable to work during the crisis.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.