New Study Makes a Strong Case for a National Paid Leave Policy

by | Jan 19, 2012 | Paid Leave

At a time when working families are struggling, the economy is in trouble, and the need for family friendly workplace policies is high, a groundbreaking new study demonstrates that paid leave is good for working families, businesses and our economy. Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public makes a strong case for the national paid leave standard the country needs.

This new study was conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and commissioned by the National Partnership with generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation. The study looks at how access to paid leave affects workers’ labor force participation, wages and reliance on public assistance. And the findings are striking, particularly for women.

According to the new study, after a child’s birth, women who take paid leave are more likely than those who take no leave to be working nine to 12 months after the child’s birth. And those women who take paid leave for 30 days or longer are more likely to see wage increases in the year after a child’s birth. Mothers’ increased attachment to the workforce and rise in income can have a lasting effect on their families’ financial health, especially in the nearly two-thirds of U.S. households where women are their families’ sole or co-breadwinners.

Additionally, and particularly important during tough economic times, the study reveals that, with controls for other relevant factors, both women and men who take paid leave are significantly less likely to rely on public assistance or food stamps after a child’s birth. At a time when governments are struggling with deficits and working families are struggling to stay afloat, this is an incredibly important finding. It shows that giving workers’ access to paid leave can save precious government and taxpayer resources while giving families the stability they desperately need.

Pay Matters makes clear that access to leave is important for working families, businesses and the public – and that the difference between paid and unpaid leave is significant. Sadly, only about one in 10 workers in the United States has access to paid family leave through their employer, and fewer than two in five have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided short-term disability insurance. A handful of states – California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island – provide for personal medical leave with some wage replacement. And only California and New Jersey have implemented paid family leave programs.

What these states have done is an important first step, but the vast majority of workers are still struggling without any paid leave. These are new mothers and fathers who can’t bond with their new children, adult children who can’t assist their ill elderly parents, pregnant women who lose their life savings when they are put on bed rest, and more.

As the report recommends, it’s time for a national standard – not a patchwork of policies. That’s why we are so pleased that members of Congress are working on a proposal that would guarantee paid leave on the national level. It’s badly needed, it’s sound policy and it’s cost-efficient. It’s also the right thing to do for working families, for businesses and for our economy.

We hope and expect that this study, and those that follow, will make the case for a national paid leave policy clear to all legislators. There couldn’t be a better time to make it a priority.

Read the full report here.