Policies That Profit Workers and Employers
Jan 24, 2011
A new report on California's nine-year old paid family leave law shows the program is benefiting the state's workers and with positive or no effect on businesses. Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California demonstrates the practicality of policies like paid family leave that help low-wage workers balance work and life responsibilities in healthy ways.
California is one of only two states with legislation requiring employers to provide paid family leave. The program provides eligible employees with up to six weeks of leave, while receiving 55 percent of their usual weekly earnings. It allows workers to take the time they need to attend to family responsibilities, like caring for a newborn or a family member with a long-term illness.
Prior to the law's passage, the business community expressed concerns that mandated paid family leave would mean heavy costs and be especially burdensome for small businesses. However, the study revealed these concerns to be largely unfounded. "I'm not hearing of any people complain about this causing any damage," said Brad Adams, chairman and CEO of Sunstone Components Groups, a manufacturer with 100 employees.
"If anything, the single biggest problem with Paid Family Leave in California is that not enough people know about it," said Eileen Appelbaum, the report's co-author and senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Of those aware of paid family leave, many didn't apply because they couldn't afford the low wage replacement or were afraid of negative repercussions at work.
California's paid family leave and paid sick days in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Milwaukee are particularly important to low-wage workers, who often face difficult decisions about taking time off to deal with illness. Without these important policies, taking time off for such needs often means losing wages and sometimes even a job.
Leaves that Pay reinforces that healthy employees make a greater contribution to the company bottom line. In turn, fair treatment engenders improved employee loyalty and morale. Policies that support work/life balance are a win-win for employees and employers. The momentum is growing nationally, and supportive businesses are invaluable partners in these efforts.