Eighty-four percent of consumers would prefer that grocery store employees wear masks, according to a survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In addition, 93 percent think it’s 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 numbers think 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.
Grocery stores are struggling to adopt 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 about 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 benefits to millions of workers if they or their families are affected by covid-19. However, those requirements didn’t apply to companies with more than 500 employees.
On April 3, the 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.
However, FFCRA’s paid leave doesn’t apply to 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. It’s also calling on Congress to expand paid leave benefits to include employees at companies with more than 500 workers in the next coronavirus response package.
“Paid sick time is a matter of both worker and consumer health,” said Peter G. Lurie, M.D., CSPI president. “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.”