Support for Parental Leave: 8 in 10 People Believe Parents Should Get Paid Parental Leave [Survey]

Most Americans think parents should get paid leave amid school and child care closures, and 50% of workers say they’re willing to take on extra work to make it possible.

father working from home with kids
Updated May 13, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

When schools closed in March, parents across the country had to start doing double duty. While getting used to working from home in an uncertain economy , they took on the role of teacher’s aide as kids attended Zoom classes in the background. Now seven months later, some school districts have delayed reopening or reopened for hybrid classes — a mix of distance learning and in-person instruction — that still require parents to get creative with child care.

For relief, some companies have expanded paid-time-off policies, which might be a boon for parents struggling but a source of frustration for employees without children who feel the policies are inequitable. Despite that difference of opinion, the latest FinanceBuzz survey found almost universal support of paid leave for parents who don’t have child care during the pandemic.

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults on Sept. 16, 2020 to ask their opinions on parental leave, and this is what we learned.

Key results

  • 78% of Americans "agree" or "strongly agree" that parents should be given paid leave to care for their children during the pandemic. More than half (51%) think parents should get at least 8 weeks of paid parental leave. Only 7% do NOT think parents should have the option of taking paid leave to care for their children.
  • Slightly less than half (48%) think employers are doing enough to help parents, while only 37% think the federal government is doing enough.
  • Parents are passing the test: 28% of working parents with kids under 13 gave themselves an "A" for balancing work and childcare during COVID-19, while 42% gave themselves a "B." Only 1% gave themselves a failing grade.
  • Two-thirds of working parents said their kids are more demanding than their boss.
  • For working Americans with kids under age 13, the most common source of work-related stress cited was balancing work and child care. For those without young kids, the top stressor was fear of getting the coronavirus.

Paid parental leave has broad support

In a country where it seems impossible to find something everyone can agree on, paid parental leave is not a divisive issue. Only 7% of Americans don’t think parents should have the option of taking paid leave to care for children during the pandemic.

More than half (51%) of those surveyed think parents should get at least eight weeks of paid leave for new child care responsibilities caused by COVID-19.

Several big tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce have made headlines for continuing to allow employees to work from home and offering paid leave to those with kids. The pandemic has even pushed some companies to make the remote work lifestyle permanent for some or all of their employees.

Nationwide Insurance, for example, is shutting down some offices and keeping a portion of its workforce at home indefinitely, and Coinbase is now a remote-first company where going to the office is optional for most employees. Although there are drawbacks to remote work, companies embracing it have helped to minimize health risks and improve flexibility for countless workers.

Who should be helping parents?

If parents do get extra paid time away from work, the question at the top of mind for employers and workers is this: Who will pick up the slack? Well, many coworkers don’t mind helping out.

About half of parents with kids under 13 (52%) and those without kids under 13 (48%) say they’re happy to pitch in to cover for those who take off work for child care reasons.

Another 39% of people overall are happy that parents have the option to take more time off, but are not willing to do extra work. And 1 in 10 people don’t think parents should get special treatment at all because they believe everyone’s struggling during this time.

When asked who’s helping parents more, employers or the federal government, more people say that employers are stepping up to the plate.

Forty-eight percent of respondents say employers are doing enough to help parents during the pandemic, compared to just 37% who say the same about the federal government.

The government did pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) earlier this year, which offers tax credits to employers who give paid leave to workers stuck at home due to child care or school closures. FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, though. The CARES Act offered the Paycheck Protection Program that forgives business loans taken out for payroll expenses (such as parental leave wages), but that expired in August.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) introduced back in May included an additional stimulus check, unemployment benefits, plus expansion of paid sick leave and family leave, but that hasn’t received support from both sides of the aisle. What will end up in the final bill (if it passes) remains to be seen; Democrats brought a revised bill to the table at the end of September.

COVID-19 is bringing the stress to working Americans

Understandably, COVID-19 is bringing on all kinds of stress to working Americans.

Overall, the top work stressor is the fear of getting the coronavirus — 42% of workers say worrying about getting sick is a stressful aspect of their job right now. Additionally, 32% of all respondents fear being furloughed or laid off, and 27% are stressed about having their pay reduced due to the pandemic.

For those with kids under 13, the most common work-related stressor is balancing work and child care. Comparatively, those without young kids worry about getting sick, having their hours cut, and adapting to new ways of work because of COVID-19.

Most stressful parts of job right now – No kids under 13

  1. Fear of getting the coronavirus (44%)
  2. Fear of having hours or pay cut (33%)
  3. Adapting to new ways of working because of coronavirus (32%)

Most stressful parts of the job right now – Kids under 13

  1. Balancing work and child care (49%)
  2. Fear of getting the coronavirus (39%)
  3. Fear of my children getting coronavirus (36%)

Parents are passing the test (at least for now)

For the better part of 2020, parents have worn all the hats — financial provider, child rearer, teacher, after-school caregiver, and tutor.

Despite having a full plate, parents believe they are passing the test when balancing work and child care. Almost 30% of parents with kids under 13 give themselves an “A” for their efforts, and about 40% give themselves a “B.”

Only 1% give themselves a failing grade. That could be because taking care of kids is taxing — 67% of working parents say their kids are more demanding than their boss.

The bottom line

The pandemic has shaken up the way we work and caused us to reconsider child care in our country. Without schools teaching students and keeping them occupied from morning to afternoon, parents take on the burden of doing both while working, a situation that is probably not sustainable.

Some parents might have to ask themselves some tough questions, such as whether it might be necessary to put a career on hold until child care is stable — the survey found nearly 8% of people caring for children under 13 aren’t working right now. Parents in between jobs could turn to side hustles as a way to bring in extra income and avoid losing sleep over money. For those who do work, most support the idea of paid parental leave during the pandemic.

However, if you're facing a nearing parental leave with a less-than-ideal payment setup, you may be able to find easy ways to make money on maternity leave.


FinanceBuzz surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults on Sept. 16, 2020. 

Author Details

Taylor Medine

Taylor Medine is a freelance writer who's covered all things personal finance for the last seven years. She enjoys writing financial product reviews and guides on budgeting, saving, repaying debt, and building credit.