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New Polling Shows that Small Businesses Strongly Support Paid Family and Medical Leave

A food truck co-owner hands a credit card back to a customer after taking an order in Burbank, California, July 2015.

A new poll, commissioned by the Center for American Progress and Small Business Majority, shows that 70 percent of small-business owners support a national paid family and medical leave insurance program. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, found the following:

  1. 70 percent of small-business owners believe that it is important to establish a federal paid family and medical leave program that is gender neutral and allows workers to use leave to care for themselves or a family member. Forty-two percent believe that it is “very important” to establish such a program.
  2. Support for a national paid family leave program among small-business owners is growing. When a similar poll was conducted in 2013, 45 percent supported proposals to create a publicly administered paid family and medical leave program. That number has grown to 70 percent in just four years, demonstrating the rising awareness of the need for such a program.
  3. Most small-business owners are already providing some sort of family leave to care for a new child and/or providing care through a patchwork of formal and informal—paid and unpaid—policies.
  4. 61 percent of small-business owners are in favor of administering paid family and medical leave through a combination of employer and employee contributions.
  5. Small-business owners are politically diverse, showing that support for a national paid family and medical leave program crosses party lines. In the 2016 poll, 44 percent of respondents identified as Republicans, 32 percent identified as Democrats, and 16 percent identified as independents.

Small-businesses owners’ support for a robust, paid family and medical leave program is not surprising. A majority of small-business owners already offer some combination of paid and unpaid leave. In addition to a desire to support their employees, many recognize the business benefits to providing paid family and medical leave through greater retention, improved morale, and increased productivity. Furthermore, this poll shows that small businesses have the ability to handle an employee absence without hiring a replacement or putting work on hold.

Yet in the United States, small-business owners are at a disadvantage. The United States is the only industrialized country without some form of paid family leave. While larger companies may have the resources to provide paid leave on their own, small businesses often do not—putting them at a competitive disadvantage. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act allows a limited amount of unpaid leave, small businesses recognize that the time has come for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave plan that covers the full range of caregiving needs.

Adopting a national paid family and medical leave program would level the playing field for all businesses and workers. Business tax credits and other piecemeal approaches are not enough: The United States needs a nationally administered program, such as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, to ensure access to comprehensive paid family and medical leave for all workers. As this poll demonstrates, small-business owners understand the importance of such a program. It is time for policymakers to catch up.

* Note: The poll was conducted through an internet survey of 512 small-business owners and operators nationwide that have 2 to 99 employees. The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners for Small Business Majority from February 8 to 13, 2017. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent.

Shilpa Phadke is the Senior Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Danielle Corley is a Research Associate for Women’s Economic Policy at the Center.