Spotlight on Poverty Highlights Paid Leave

Apr 28, 2011

A job alone is no longer necessarily enough to support oneself and one's family. Approximately 3 million workers live in poverty despite working year-round in full-time jobs.  Paid family and medical leave and paid sick days are critical supports for American workers trying to take care of their own health and that of their families.

CLASP-managed Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: The Source for News, Ideas and Action  provides a platform for exchanging diverse perspectives to develop innovative solutions to poverty.  Over the next three weeks, Spotlight on Poverty is posting three short video interviews on paid leave.  In the first video, Dr. Bob Drago of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) discusses the first paid sick days law in the country, which was passed in San Francisco in 2006.  A study by IWPR found that two years after passage, two-thirds of employers said they support San Francisco's paid sick days law.  Dr. Drago explains that paid sick days are like car insurance - even though most people already have it, a law is still required to ensure that people are doing it.  Additionally, as drivers only use car insurance when they need it, employees only use paid sick days when they are ill.  The study found that the median days off taken by employees is three, despite the fact that the law allows them to accrue 5 to 9 days per year. 

In the second video, CEPR's Eileen Applebaum offers insights from new research on paid family leave in California. The state is the first in the nation to provide paid family leave (New Jersey has a younger law and Washington's has not yet been implemented). The study included interviews with both employers and employees and found that the now 6 year old law is a win for both.  Applebaum and her co-researcher, Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at UCLA and the CUNY, found the program had positive or neutral effects on areas such as productivity, turnover and morale. The law allows private-sector workers to take up to six weeks a year off at 55 percent of a worker's wages to care for a new child or a sick family member. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) law allows up to 12 weeks off, but it is unpaid.

If you sign up for Spotlight's weekly e-gram, you'll get word when the video interview with Aditi Mohapatra of the Calvert Group is posted.  Mohapatra will be describing how businesses in San Francisco are using a Gender Equality Principles Assessment to promote best practices, including paid leave.


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