FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s Time for Paid Family and Medical Leave

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:

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail