Colorado small businesses support paid family medical leave
The Colorado state legislature is considering a bill that would make Colorado the seventh state in the country to establish a program guaranteeing access to paid leave to care for a newborn child or a sick family member. Small business owners and their employees are particularly affected by the current lack of access to paid family leave as many small businesses can’t afford to offer robust benefits, putting them at a disadvantage with their larger counterparts. Small business has been central to ongoing debates over the legislation, and new polling sheds light on their views on the proposal and their struggles to offer access to paid family and medical leave benefits.
The poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, found nearly two-thirds of Colorado small business owners (64%) support establishing a publicly-administered family and medical leave insurance program in the state. The poll was a survey of 300 Colorado small business owners with 2 to 50 employees conducted between March 11 and March 20, 2019.
The proposed insurance program would provide employees with a portion of their wages for up to 12 weeks when the employee has a serious illness, has a new baby to care for or needs to provide care for a seriously ill family member. The current proposal would be funded through insurance premiums paid from payroll contributions shared by employees and employers—each contributing approximately one half of 1% of an employee’s wages. More than 1 in 3 respondents strongly support this proposal.
Figure 1: Colorado small business owners support proposed family and medical leave
Support for this proposal is strong across demographic groups. An equal number of men and women, 64% and 63% respectively, support the proposal. A 54% majority of the smallest businesses (those with 2-5 employees) support the proposed program, and support is high among restaurant (68%) and retail (75%) small business owners. Additionally, 58% of Republican or Republican-leaning respondents support the proposed program, revealing the proposal finds strong support across party lines.
The poll also illustrates that many Colorado small business owners are struggling to offer family and medical leave to all employees and to offer full pay to those who are able to take leave. While 57% percent of all respondents say they offer access to maternity leave, paternity leave or both, it’s important to note that two-thirds of respondents currently offer only unpaid leave or partial pay or do not have any sort of parental leave policy. What’s more, 58% of businesses with 2-10 employees don't offer any type of leave, and these businesses comprise the majority of businesses in Colorado.
Figure 2: Majority only offer partial or no pay or do not have a parental leave policy
Colorado small business owners are addressing their employees’ need to take extended family or medical leave on a day-to-day basis, but they are struggling to offer paid leave on their own. The legislature’s proposed legislation would address this need by offering uniform access to paid family and medical leave for workers in Colorado, and Colorado’s small businesses broadly support the creation of this program.