Bennies & Inequities of Paid Family Leave

A recent editorial by Jeremy Adam Smith, author of the Daddy Shift makes a great case for how paid family leave is not only good for business, but is “good for guys and their marriages.” A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research indicates that… …over 90% of employees who used paid leave (with partial wage replacement) said it “had a positive effect on their ability to care for their babies,” and improves a dad’s bonding with his newborn.

California has had this kind of program since 2004 and the Obama’s 2011 budget has $50 million to help other states establish these kinds of programs. As you might expect the political right doesn’t buy that it wouldn’t hurt business. But the CEPR survey shows otherwise; it reports that California’s program had “no or very little impact on their business operations,” a whopping 89% surveyed said it had no or positive effect on productivity, 96% claim it reduced employee turnover, and 99% said it improved morale.

The proposal has been cut to $10 million and is currently in congressional gridlock. I have to agree with Smith that there seem to be few or no downsides to giving new moms and dads time with partial pay. But even though only 7% of men and about half of America’s women presently have access to this kind of leave, federal funding for it ultimately might not make the cut, given the country’s budget woes.

If it does survive some level of funding, this is where inequities kick in. Those with and without children can take the six week leave to care for ill family members. Fair. But while parents can also use the six weeks to care for their new baby, those without children (yet or by choice) don’t get that time.

This kind of benefit, along with tax credits for parents, are examples of how policy unfairly favors those who choose to reproduce. What is more fair? Broaden the boundaries of what “family leave” can mean so leave policy is offered to all employees under more circumstances. Having children be a focal point of “family” policy continues to, as Elinor Burkett’s Baby Boon says in its title, “cheat the childless.”

What do you think would be fair?

11 thoughts on “Bennies & Inequities of Paid Family Leave

  1. I do think it would be more fair to offer everyone a paid leave of absence…but I wonder how it would work out logistically?

    Some parents have only one child, others have seven, eight or more. Should we let people take as many leaves of absence as they’d like (for any reason) or restrict it to a certain number of months/percentage of time worked?

    1. Lydia–I say everyone gets two — for parents it can help encourage having no more than two kids per couple, and those without children get two as well….

  2. I am with Burkett. No paid time off for having kids. No tax credits, either. Those without children were not asked to pay more in taxes or be ineligible for company benefits because others made a specific lifestyle choice to have kids.

    A secondary reason I left my company 2 years was because it provided subsidized group health insurance for people who worked ZERO hours for the company (i.e. spouses and children of covered employees) but would not offer me UNsubsidized group health insurance coverage (i.e. I pay 100% of the premiums) because I worked some hours but not enough to be eligible for it according to their rules. When I protested, they told me it was “fiscally unsound” yet they find a way to afford this policy to those who don’t contribute to the company at all.

    1. Deegee, the subsidized group insurance thing sure is unfair. I am split on the no free rides idea. As much as I intellectually think this is correct, I do see the benefit of parents having time after their child is born. If the bennie could be expanded to more of an allotment for ‘personal time’ that could be used for this or anything else that would be more fair. OR make more vacation time, and people can use it as they choose. As long as society remains to pro -baby, I am not sure we will see fair policies in this area. I am looking for a country etc that does do it fairly…needle in haystack!

  3. I’m with deegee. No free rides. It’s a lifestyle choice. You chose to have a child, you should be responsible for paying for it. I don’t see anyone offering me perks for owning a cat.

  4. You know what though? Maybe if parents had to be fully responsible for their life choices, they’d think a bit harder about them. If companies want to say everyone gets three weeks or six weeks or nine weeks off a year for whatever, great. But to give someone MORE just because they performed a simple biological function, one they CHOSE to undertake, is blatantly unfair.

  5. The United States has the worst maternity/paternity leave policies of any country except for Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. People don’t have to give birth to benefit from Paid Family Leave in California – it is for caring for a family member with a serious health condition as well i.e. spouse, parent or child. You can’t blame people for their ‘life choices’ in having sick parents, can you?

    1. I am not against maternity/paternity policies at all. Like research shows, it is best for the parents and baby and that is a good thing. In the States the policies have a lot to be desired for parents and and because they do not treat all employees equally, kids and not. Non-parents may be able to take the leave for ill parents or other family members, but parents can do that and take leave for kids. It just seems that the policies should be written as more general nature with regard to “leave” as to ultimately not give priority to parents.

  6. I have what seems like a silly question with an obvious answer, but bear with me: if the leave is for family issues only, how does the employer really know? Where is the burden of proof? I mean, really, I don’t have to document to the government or my boss that someone in my family is seriously ill, I don’t think.

    In fact, as a childfree person, I might be tempted to invent fictional children so I can get more sympathy, more time off, and longer deadlines. I’m surrounded by enough parents that I can speak the language if I needed to fake it. I could get the employment benefits of having a kid without any of the drawbacks — a win-win.

    I don’t have proof, and I know having kids is a full-time job, but might there be some parents who take time off work for their kids when they really don’t have to? I know myself enough to know that if I were a parent I would probably make up excuses just to get out early.

    Along the same lines, if there is some larger social interest in making sure children are well-taken-care of, and if there are laws and budgets dedicated to make that happen, then we citizens and shareholders have a right to demand some proof. Prove to me that when you take paid time off to care for your kids that you do a good job. If I have to pay for your leave, then show me that you are not wasting my money. I’m convinced that some children could benefit from LESS time with some of their terrible parents….

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