Advantages and Concerns

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What are some advantages of mandating paid leave?

When people are sick and unable to see a doctor to get a diagnosis or to stay home to get well, they risk getting sicker themselves as well as getting their colleagues and clients sick.  When parents are unable to stay home to take care of their newborn or newly adopted child, their families suffer.

Paid leave policies have been shown to benefit employers and employees in the following ways:

Improve public health

Workers who with paid sick leave are more likely to recover quickly from illnesses and less likely to visit the emergency room for care than those without. Workers who come to work sick are likely to infect colleagues and clients, potentially causing a ripple effect throughout a business and a neighborhood, especially during periods of health concerns like the 2013 flu epidemic. Fewer emergency room visits and fewer illnesses make for a healthier community and lower health care costs.

Improved employee productivity and retention

It stands to reason that healthy employes work better than sick employees. A worker staying on the job at full pay for multiple days at a lower capacity is most certainly a greater expense to an employer than a worker taking a paid day off to rest and returning to work at full-speed, especially when the chance of other employee infection is minimized by that day off as well. In a review of this productivity differential, a 2005 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that a national paid sick leave policy would “save $1,571.5 million annually for wages that would otherwise be paid to workers with lowered work productivity due to illness.”

According to a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families using data recorded between 1997-2009, women who take paid leave after giving birth are “more likely to be working 9 to 12 months after a child’s birth than are those who report taking no leave at all (‘non‐leave takers’).” And women who “report leaves of 30 or more days are 54% more likely to report wage increases in the year following the child’s birth than are women who take no leave at all.”

“Both women and men report lower levels of public assistance receipt in the year following a child’s birth, when compared to those who do not take any leave.”
-National Partnership for Women and Families

Improved infant health and parental bonding

Studies suggest that when mothers return to work within 12 weeks of giving birth, in the first year of life their children are less likely to be breastfed, less likely to receive regular medical care, and less likely to receive all of their immunizations.

Parental leave results in better prenatal and postnatal care and strengthened parental bonding over a child’s life. This time provides long-term benefits that improve a child’s brain development, social development and overall well-being.
-Human Impact Partners

What are some concerns about mandating paid leave?

Employers unaccustomed to affording their employees the opportunity to take paid time off may be concerned that leave policies will hurt their business in various ways. Some of these concerns are addressed below.

Staffers will take advantage of paid leave policies

Employers express concern that workers will take advantage of paid leave policies, by lying about their needs or abusing their options. But in a 2011 study of 253 organizations operating under California’s state-wide paid family leave policies (allowing for paid parental leave and paid leave to care for a seriously ill family member) published by members of the Center for Economic Policy Research and the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, “the vast majority (91 percent) of respondents to the employer survey said ‘No’ when asked if they were ‘aware of any instances in which employees that you are responsible for abused the state Paid Family Leave program.’” And in a 2011 study of 727 employers by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on the outcomes of San Francisco’s paid sick leave ordinance, survey results show that “Despite the availability of either five or nine sick days under the [ordinance], the typical worker with access used only three paid sick days during the previous year, and one-quarter of employees with access used zero paid sick days.”

Keeping employees on leave on the payroll will be too expensive

Businesses often voice the concern that paid leave programs will be too costly to maintain. But the report on the experiences of employers in California notes, “The business community’s concerns prior to passage of the [Paid Family Leave] legislation, that it would impose extensive new costs on employers and involve a particularly serious burden for small businesses, were unfounded. After more than five years’ experience with PFL, the vast majority of employers reported that it has had minimal impact on their business operations.” The results reported in San Francisco are similar: “Employer profitability did not suffer. Six out of seven employers did not report any negative effect on profitability as a result of the [paid sick leave ordinance].”

What’s the cost of not making change?

It’s crucial not to ignore the research that shows the damage done by resisting change.

  • Failing its Families | Human Rights Watch | 2011. “[This report] documents the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption, employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers.”

What do you think about paid leave?

Share your thoughts on paid time off. Does your experience match the research?

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