FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s Time for Paid Family and Medical Leave

by EILEEN APPELBAUM

Tuesday, February 5, marks the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, passed with bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.  In the 20 years since passage, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times by women and men who needed a family or medical leave.

Yet, as we celebrate what the FMLA has achieved, we need to recognize that it was always intended as an important first step in making it possible for people to be responsible employees and good parents and family members. Much unfinished business must still be addressed if the FMLA is to live up to its promise. Most non-college educated workers and others in jobs with low pay and status lack access to employer-provided disability insurance or paid family leave.  The result is that millions of Americans are regularly forced to choose between economic security and providing vital care for their families.

In Unfinished Business, a forthcoming book coauthored with Ruth Milkman, we examine employer and employee experiences with California’s paid family leave program. The fears of business groups that it would impose a financial burden on employers and would lead to fraudulent claims and abuse proved to be unwarranted. Our 2010 survey of California employers found that 87 percent reported that the PFL program had not resulted in any cost increases; some reported cost savings by reducing employee turnover and/or reducing their own benefit costs when they coordinated generous company benefits with the state program.  Nine out of ten employers – including small business owners – reported either positive effects of no effect of PFL on business operations (see Table 1). As for abuse, 91 percent of employers were aware of no abuse by their employees, and among the other 9 percent it was a relatively rare occurrence. About 61 percent of employees had a co-worker take a family leave and most took on additional tasks or hours to get the work done. Yet 94 percent reported that this had either no impact or a positive impact on them – with a quarter reporting a positive impact. Business fears about the effects of paid family leave on small businesses and on co-workers turned out to be unfounded.

For people, California’s PFL program has led to better economic, social, and health outcomes for those who have used it. Wage replacement levels were significantly higher for workers who used PFL than for those who did not, especially for workers in low-quality jobs (see Table 2). Moreover, workers in low-quality jobs who used PFL were more likely than those who did not use the program to return to the same employer after a family leave, were more satisfied with the length of their leave, were better able to care for newborns, and were better able to make child care arrangements.

Our findings suggest that programs which support workers when they need to care for their families can make a positive difference in the lives of people without imposing undue costs on employers, many of whom may actually benefit. The PFL and TDI programs in California and New Jersey provide path breaking and positive examples that can be replicated in other states and nationally.

Eileen Appelbaum is a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

This article originally appeared on Economic Intelligence.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail