News Release

Awareness and use of sick leave

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers examine awareness and use of federal sick leave in the United States. In March 2020, the United States implemented the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which included federally funded emergency paid sick leave due to COVID-19. However, awareness and use of FFCRA emergency sick leave remain unclear. Between October and December 2020, the nationally representative Cornell National Social Survey randomly selected 371 US employees and asked them about awareness and use of COVID-19 emergency sick leave. Nicolas Ziebarth and colleagues analyzed the survey data and estimated that approximately 8 million US employees used FFCRA emergency sick leave within the first 6-8 months of the policy's implementation. However, compared with prepandemic years dating back to 2011, unmet sick leave needs tripled during the pandemic. Women exhibited a 69% higher risk of unmet sick leave needs than men. Less than half of all employees were aware of emergency sick leave. Compared with other employees, college graduates, Asian-Americans, and employees born in the United States were significantly more likely to know about emergency sick leave and use it, whereas employees who were foreign-born or working part-time jobs were less aware of and less likely to use sick leave. The findings suggest the need to increase outreach efforts to mitigate unequal access to sick leave, according to the authors.

Article #21-07670: "Awareness and use of (emergency) sick leave: US employees' unaddressed sick leave needs in a global pandemic," by Emma Jelliffe, Paul Pangburn, Stefan Pichler, and Nicolas R. Ziebarth.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicolas R. Ziebarth, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; tel: 607-279-4217; email:


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