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Demand For Virus Leave On The Rise, Small Businesses Say

By Anne Cullen · May 3, 2021, 7:01 PM EDT

Although nearly a third of people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, workers for small businesses are still taking virus-related leave in increasing numbers, according to a survey released Monday by the National Federation of Independent Business.

In the latest edition of NFIB's COVID-19 survey, which cataloged responses from roughly 550 small businesses in late April, more than half of the respondents said that a worker had taken sick or family leave related to the virus.

This figure represents a significant jump from the December survey put out by the federation, which netted about 600 responses, of which a little over a quarter of small employers reported an employee taking COVID-19 leave.

The April report marks the NFIB's latest in a long line of questionnaires it has compiled on coronavirus issues that small business owners have been tackling since the onset of the pandemic. The federation, which is based in Nashville, is the largest small business association in the country, with about 300,000 members. 

When the NFIB began asking small employers about workers who took virus-related leave in May 2020, it found very few of these businesses had had an employee take this kind of time, about 13%. That figure hovered around a quarter between the fall and winter, after which it bounced up to nearly half in the January and March surveys.

In April's survey — the 17th of its kind — 53% of small employers said they'd had an employee take virus-related sick or family leave. The vast majority of these workers, 70%, were paid during their time away from the office, while about 13% had to take unpaid leave, and another 17% had a mix of paid and unpaid, according to the survey.

Outside of leave issues, the NFIB's questionnaire also found that small business owners are sharply divided on vaccine plans for both themselves and their workforce.

While a little over half of the small business owners said they had already been vaccinated, 37% said they had no plans to get inoculated against COVID-19. Another 9% said they'll get the shot, but not right away, according to the survey.

As for their workers, small employers appear evenly split on whether to promote the vaccine in their workplace.

About 46% told the NFIB that they will encourage employees to get the jab, while a swath of respondents of roughly the same size said they won't mandate or encourage those on their roster to get vaccinated.

A small sliver of these companies — 3% — said they have required or will require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

--Editing by Haylee Pearl.

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