Virginians overwhelmingly support paid sick leave, new poll shows

(AP photo/Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

December 15, 2023

A poll released this week by the Virginia Interfaith Center, a member of the Virginians for Paid Sick Days Coalition, found that a whopping 88% of Virginians support a requirement that employers provide paid sick leave to their workers.

Specifically, the poll asked Virginians if they “support or oppose requiring Virginia employers to offer at least five paid sick days to their employees.” Virginia women were especially supportive of such a policy; 97% support it. Just 6% of poll respondents oppose it.

Most Virginians (59%) also support requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to part-time employees.

“This poll shows the strong public support for paid sick days in Virginia,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. “Not only is this policy the right thing to do, but it will also strengthen families, schools, businesses, and public health.”

Many Virginians report going to work despite being ill because they don’t have paid sick leave; 64% say they have done this, and 89% of workers earning $10k to $25k per year say they’ve gone to work sick due to lack of sick days.

Twenty-nine percent of Virginians say they’ve sent their kids to school despite being sick because they didn’t have any paid sick days that would allow them to stay home and care for the child.

“As an elementary school teacher in Norfolk Public Schools for 17 years, and President of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers Union for 12 years, I personally witnessed parents who did not have sick leave pay from their jobs. They were forced to send their children to school sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off from work to keep them home,” said Thomas Calhoun, Sr. “The state of Virginia does have an option. We can make sure that every person who goes to work is provided with some measure of paid sick days. It benefits the state, the employer, the employees, and their families.”

In the most recent legislative session, Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell sponsored a measure that would have required employers to provide paid sick leave to those who work in health care and grocery stores. The bill passed on a party-line vote in the state Senate before dying in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

The vast majority of Virginians (78%) think that workers who handle food or work in a grocery store should have paid sick days. Most Virginians (83%) also believe that workers who take care of the sick, the elderly, or children should have paid sick days.

“Virginia’s essential workers should know they can take the time they need to get better when they feel sick, instead of being forced back too soon and contributing to disease spread,” said Surovell. “Virginia is still suffering from a labor shortage leftover from the pandemic, and I’m optimistic that paid sick leave legislation will lead to a more resilient economy. Senate Democrats are committed to building a Virginia that works for employers and for families.”

The poll was conducted by 1983 Labs and was conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, 2023, with a margin of error of 3.5%.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.



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