Why businesses are pushing Congress to expand paid family and medical leave
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About 200 companies signed a letter this week calling on Congress to pass permanent paid family and medical leave, calling it “one of the critical solutions to our nation’s economic recovery.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, right about this time last year, Congress did pass a law requiring many businesses to offer two weeks of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family leave for COVID-related reasons. But it was temporary.
Let’s look at why businesses are interested in making government-sponsored family leave permanent.
One of the lines in the letter to Congress says: “In short: paid leave is good for business.”
And it has been good for the multinational alcohol company Diageo, said HR executive Laura Watt. “It can help us attract great talent. And it really helps with retention.”
Two years ago, said Watt, Diageo started offering six months of paid leave to all new parents. “And the feedback I got, people were just, they could not believe that we were being so progressive, they were talking about it to family, to friends. And it creates a huge amount of pride and loyalty to the organization.”
Having federally mandated paid leave would help companies, like Diageo, that already offer it and those that don’t, said Annie Sartor at the advocacy organization Paid Leave for the United States.
“Big businesses support a federal policy, because they know that it helps subsidize the cost of paid leave. So they embrace it. For small businesses, it helps them compete,” Sartor said.
Over the past year, corporate support for paid family and medical leave has been building, said Vicki Shabo at New America. “We can no longer pretend that what happens at home is separate from what happens in our working lives.”
Nearly 3 million women have dropped out of the labor market during the pandemic. And many are women of color.
“This is a critical gender justice issue, a racial justice issue, and it would help bring women back into the workforce,” said Shabo.
Shabo said paid leave is something Congress could make permanent as part of the next recovery package.
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