Report: Paid Family and Medical Leave Gains Strong Support

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 26, 2020

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez,, 212-334-4275

New York, NY – The most recent research by The Opportunity Agenda examining public attitudes and perception towards Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML), shows that a vast majority of Americans support it. The new survey first released in March and updated in September, found that 65 percent of US residents believe in government regulation mandating all employers to provide all workers access to paid family and medical leave.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed chronic flaws in access to quality health care and has exacerbated Americans’ need for financial support to survive amid diminished economic opportunity. One clear example is that while CDC guidelines recommend COVID-19 patients and exposed family members to self-quarantine until cleared by a medical professional, nearly  7 in 10 low-wage workers and 3 in 10 of all workers can still be fired or lose weeks of income for doing just that. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act extended Paid Family Medical Leave for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, however that policy is set to expire in December.

Just 4 percent of lower-wage workers have access to paid family leave, compared to 31 percent of the highest wage workers. This forces workers in high-risk environments like grocery stores, public transportation, and waste management — who are disproportionately Black and Latino and living paycheck to paycheck — to choose between caring for themselves or sick family members and earning the salary needed to support their families.

Each year, workers lose nearly $22.5 billion in wages because they can’t access paid family and medical leave.

The Opportunity Agenda reissued this report with updated guidance in an effort to raise awareness about the urgent need for medical leave protections for all workers and to reflect how attitudes and messages are likely changing the minds of Americans in the wake of over 200,000 lives lost since its original release.

Key findings:

  • 65 percent of US residents believe in government regulation mandating all employers to provide all workers access to paid family and medical leave vs. only 22 percent who support leaving access to employers’ discretion.
  • Across every demographic and attitudinal subgroup, people side with the idea that the United States should ensure all employers adopt a universal paid family and medical leave program.
  • Women, those under 30 and in their 40s, African Americans, those with a disability connection, Democrats, and the base have the widest margins in favor of a national program.
  • Three-quarters favor a nationwide program to guarantee access to up to 12 weeks per year of Paid family and medical leave to care for a new child joining their household through birth, adoption, or foster care; an aging or seriously ill family member; or their own serious health condition.
  • While people favor every length of leave tested, the overwhelming majority supports a 12-week program.

“Time is ticking as the emergency Paid Family Medical Leave that was passed by Congress as a result of the pandemic will expire in less than two months, and, unless something is done, countless families struggling during this pandemic will be left further exposed,” Elizabeth Johnson, Outreach and Editorial Director at The Opportunity Agenda.

The survey was done in partnership with Lake Research Partners, who designed it and administered it online from October 17th–29th, 2019. The survey reached a total of 1,000 adults with oversamples of 100 African Americans, 150 Latinx, 150 Asian American/Pacific Islanders, 150 Native Americans, and 100 Advocates. The field survey update was done by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting in June, 2020.

To access the full report, click here.


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