Paid family leave good for women — and business — study finds
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Providing paid family
leave to workers leads to positive economic outcomes not only for working
families, but for businesses and the public, too, according to a new study by
the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.
Women who use paid leave
are far more likely to be working 9 to twelve months after a child’s birth than
those who do not take any leave, according to the study, "Pay Matters: The
Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the
Public,” commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families,
with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. These women also report
increases in wages from pre- to post-birth.
"While we have known for a long time about the
maternal and infant health benefits of leave policies, we can now link paid
family leave to greater labor force attachment and increased wages for women,
as well as to reduced spending by businesses in the form of employee
replacement costs, and by governments in the form of public assistance,” said
study author Linda Houser, an affiliate fellow of the Center for Women and
Women who take paid leave are 39 percent less
likely to receive public assistance and 40 percent less likely to receive food
stamps in the year following a child’s birth, compared to those who do not take
any leave, according to the study. Not only is paid leave associated with fewer
dollars in public assistance spending, it reduces the chance that a family
receiving public assistance will increase its use of public funding following a
child’s birth, Houser said.
Demographic changes in the U.S. workforce since
the mid-1980s include a 13-percent increase (to 72.3 percent) in the percentage
of children with both parents (in married-couple families) or their only parent
working. "Despite public conversation and energy around the value of strong
families and secure childhoods, the United States has fallen notably behind
other industrialized countries in adopting public policies that support workers
who need time off to address family needs,” the researchers wrote.
They also observe that except for a handful of
states, public policy in the United States has been limited to unpaid leave.
Since 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act has required that eligible
employees who work for employers with a minimum of 50 workers be provided up to
12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually "for their own health or the
health of a family member.” The absence of federal-level policy pertaining to
paid family leave often forces workers to "cobble together” such
employer-provided leave as sick days, holidays, vacation time, disability
insurance and/or paid or unpaid leave to deal with personal or family health
problems. Many low-income workers have no vacation, sick or other leave.
Five states – California, Hawaii, New Jersey,
New York and Rhode Island – have created disability programs that allow women
to recover some lost wages during and immediately after pregnancy, the study noted. California
and New Jersey, through very small worker payroll taxes, have passed laws to
provide an additional six weeks of paid family leave for bonding with a newborn
or newly adopted child. Additionally 10 states, including Washington, where
implementation of a paid parental leave program awaits funding authorization,
have recently considered paid family leave programs.