Press Release
New NPWF Report: Emergency Leave Helped Workers Manage COVID-19 Needs, But Limited Reach Blunted Impact

Researchers recommend implementation of permanent emergency leave policy that is comprehensive and invests in public awareness and enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 21, 2023 – A new report released today by the National Partnership for Women & Families finds that emergency leave policies implemented in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) were effective at protecting public health in 2020, but would have had stronger benefits with broader eligibility and a more robust public education campaign. The report, “Learning Our Lesson,” analyzes the research and evidence about the need for and use of emergency sick and family leave, implementation and enforcement, and the costs and benefits of the program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the glaring inequities that exist across our society—including disparities in the availability of basic workplace protections like paid leave,” said Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “To go back to the pre-COVID business-as-usual without learning the pandemic’s lessons about the policies needed to support workers, especially women workers, will only deepen long-standing policy gaps and economic instability. We urge policymakers to heed the lessons outlined in our report so we can forge a stronger economy for employers and employees alike. It is long past time to ensure that every worker—whether they work on our nation’s railways, in our schools, in our grocery stores, or in any other setting—is able to care for themselves or their loved ones during their times of greatest need.”

The report also includes findings from interviews with 20 workers who needed paid leave for COVID-19, including some who were able to access it and others who faced barriers, including lack of awareness of the program. Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults reported hearing “not much” and 20 percent reported hearing “nothing at all” about emergency paid sick and child care leave. In comparison, about 85 percent of those eligible said they knew about the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.

Additionally, the report finds that a lack of basic health and caregiving protections continues to be especially concentrated among workers of color, with nearly half of Latinx workers, and more than one-third of Black workers, reporting no paid time away from work of any kind.

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About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.

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