Are we seeing a shift in thinking when it comes to paid family leave?
Years ago, legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act received plenty of pushback from the business community. The typical narrative was that such legislation was a “job killer.” And in recent years, politicians, with the implicit backing of companies, have introduced bills that would weaken those laws.
Now, it appears more business leaders realize that giving their employees time and space to take care of their families in times of need — without confronting economic hardship — is actually good for the bottom line.
This week, almost 200 companies signed a letter urging the U.S. Congress to support paid family leave in any federal economic recovery package.
“We cannot emerge from this pandemic and remain one of only two countries in the world with no form of national paid leave,” the letter reads. “We need a policy that is inclusive and that protects all workers equally, regardless of what kind of work they do, where they live, or whom they love.”
The companies supporting paid family leave cut across sectors and include the likes of Danone North America, Diageo, Levi Strauss, Nextdoor and Salesforce.
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The letter to Congress comes on the heels of a recent report indicating that 75 percent of U.S. businesses agree a nationwide paid family leave policy would help them to withstand future public health and economic crises.
Supporters of paid family leave also say such legislation can help take on the racial, gender and class inequalities still prevalent across the U.S. — exemplified by the estimated 3 million women who have left the workforce in the past year.
Such legislation could help fix the patchwork of national and local laws that leave most employees without any paid family leave options to take care of their loved ones during a time of crisis. From a moral and ethics perspective, paid family leave legislation would cement a culture of caregiving and job flexibility that companies are increasingly touting as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
But there’s an economic case for paid family leave, too. While mass vaccination is underway, there’s no guarantee we’ll reach herd immunity any time soon, especially if new strains of the novel coronavirus continue to sicken more people. Further, as any human resources professional will tell you, hiring new employees via remote tools is a slog. The high cost of employee turnover has long been documented — and there is a price to pay for disenchanted employees who believe their companies don’t care.
Image credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.