National poll: Grocery shoppers want staff to wear masks, have access to paid sick leave

Woman in face mask grocery shopping

CSPI calls on Congress to expand paid leave to include workers at companies with 500+ employees

Eighty-four percent of consumers would prefer that grocery store employees wear masks, according to a demographically representative online survey of 1,004 Americans this past weekend commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Additionally, 93 percent feel it is important or very important for ensuring shoppers feel safe at the store that grocery retailers offer paid sick leave benefits for employees who are diagnosed with, experience symptoms of, or become exposed to COVID-19. Similar proportions feel sick leave benefits are important or very important for preventing the spread of COVID-19 (95 percent) and for workers’ health and livelihood (94 percent). Support for mask wearing (≥78 percent) and sick leave benefits (≥89 percent reporting important or very important) was consistent across all demographic subgroups.

Grocery stores are scrambling to institute policies that keep consumers and workers feeling safe while also facing labor shortages, supply chain challenges, and growing competition from online retailers. But grocery employee illnesses and deaths are being reported. Meanwhile, scientific evidence informing COVID-19 prevention practices in public spaces is sparse and government recommendations are constantly evolving. On April 1, paid leave requirements from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act took effect, providing crucial benefits to millions of workers if they or their families are affected by COVID-19. However, those requirements did not apply to companies with over 500 employees. On April 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced voluntary recommendations that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings, especially in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain—such as grocery stores.

Unfortunately, FFCRA’s paid leave promises only apply to companies with fewer than 500 employees, which excludes large grocery chains. And grocery store staff continue to be discouraged—or even prohibited—by some employers from following voluntary guidelines to wear masks, as employers worry that covered faces could scare customers.

CSPI is calling on grocery stores, and other retailers that remain open, to encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings or masks. The group is also calling on Congress to expand paid leave benefits to include employees at companies with over 500 workers in the next coronavirus response package.

“Paid sick time is a matter of both worker and consumer health,” said CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie. “The message from consumers is clear—Congress must fill the gaps in the last coronavirus response package and use the next bill to provide paid sick time and paid leave benefits for all workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

The poll was conducted by ENGINE INSIGHTS between April 3-5, and responses were weighted by age, sex, geographic region, race, and education to achieve accurate representation of the total U.S. population 18 years of age and older.

Contact Info:  Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Richard Adcock (radcock[at]