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Congress talks mandating paid leave

John Dimsdale Jun 18, 2009

Congress talks mandating paid leave

John Dimsdale Jun 18, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: Here we are at vacation time — the first day of summer is Sunday. And yet by some estimates, 30 million American workers aren’t given any paid vacation leave by their employer. Congress is looking at legislation that would change that. From Washington, here’s Marketplace’s John Dimsdale.

John Dimsdale: In the House of Representatives, Democrat Alan Grayson represents Orlando, Fla, home to theme parks and other holiday destinations.

Alan Grayson: Listen, anybody who lives in Orlando understands that vacationing people are happy people. They’re all around us.

Grayson is the sponsor of the Paid Vacation Act. Under his proposal, companies with more than a hundred workers would have to give everyone they’ve employed for more than a year a week’s paid vacation. Grayson says time off is good for business.

Grayson: Study after study has shown people who go on vacations end up being more productive when they get back from vacation. And we need a workforce that is paying attention, motivated. And part of that is to have a workforce that doesn’t always feel tired.

Companies aren’t convinced. Keith Smith with the National Association of Manufacturers says his members support and provide paid leave. But he says this is the wrong economy for another government mandate.

Keith Smith: Additional burdensome costs, especially at a time like we’re currently undergoing where manufacturers are struggling to retain and create jobs, that is not the best time to burden manufacturers with yet another cost of government compliance.

Employers may be feeling a little overwhelmed by a flurry of bills in Congress mandating paid leave for workers — not just for vacations, but also for family emergencies and illness.

At a hearing last week on the various proposals, Deborah Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said nearly half of all private-sector workers don’t get any paid sick days.

Deborah Ness: The Healthy Families Act would help us significantly reduce the spread of pandemic or seasonal flu by enabling workers to comply with public health advice if they or their family members show sign of illness.

But Georgia Republican Tom Price worries that the cost of providing government-mandated benefits will be passed on to workers through reduced wages and fewer jobs.

Tom Price: At the very moment when Americans are worried about losing their job, this proposal undercuts job creation through higher employer costs.

So far, none of the bills have moved beyond the talking stage.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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