Care.com is committed to advancing a national paid leave plan that works for all
Care.com is proud to stand with more than 75 business leaders calling for a strong, sustainable and inclusive national paid family leave policy that will meet the needs of working Americans, their diverse families and businesses large and small.
There is broad bipartisan support for paid family leave, and a majority of American voters recognize that the cost of remaining the world’s last developed nation to deny parents paid leave is too high. Studies suggest we suffer higher infant mortality, more gender inequality, lower labor force participation by women, and, as a result, lower family income and overall economic growth. Access to paid leave leads to healthier children and less reliance on public assistance for families, as well as lower turnover and retention costs for businesses.
Many of America’s most successful companies, cities and states have realized the benefits of paid leave. Deloitte, EY, Facebook, and Google all offer paid leave because, on top of its fundamental fairness, it helps attract and retain top talent. In places like New York City, California, and my home state of Massachusetts, policymakers recognize that paid leave helps attract great companies and capable workers — while keeping small businesses and startups competitive, by helping to level the playing field on talent.
Despite these advances, only about 15 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave — and this group consists mostly of high-income workers. For the United States to remain an economic powerhouse, the benefits of paid family leave must all working people.
There’s one consolation to being this far behind on paid leave: Decades of research and data from forward-thinking companies and countries around the world can show us how to design a 21st century paid family leave plan that works for all of us. At Care.com, we’ve shared with policymakers in the White House and in Congress our conviction that any plan should contain three elements to make a meaningful difference for millions of Americans: it should reflect the nature of the modern workforce, it should address all family care needs, and it must be sustainably funded.
First, a 21st-century paid family leave plan needs to look like the 21st-century workforce. It needs to include gig and freelance workers, the self-employed, and small businesses. We can’t afford to repeat the limitations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but for which nearly half of American workers are ineligible today. A business incentive—such as the one enacted as part of the recent tax-reform bill — similarly excludes millions of self-employed and freelance workers. No worker contributing to the American economy should have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of themselves or a loved one.
In the 21st century, we also know that critical care can take many different forms. So a family leave policy should cover the full spectrum of family care needs—not just access to maternity and paternity leave for parents. Millennials aren’t just the biggest workforce demographic—17 million of them are moms, but another 10 million are family caregivers to adults, often their own aging parents. In one study of FMLA usage, less than a quarter of people who took leave did so to care for a newborn. The rest were for things like self-care, looking after a loved one with a serious medical condition, or military service.
And in order for it to have meaningful impact, any paid leave plan should be sustainably funded. That means paid leave needs to do two things: It must provide a substantial level of replacement pay to make sure people will take advantage of the benefit, and it must do so without putting too high a burden on the employers or employees who pay for it.
US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act would use a modest increase in payroll taxes to fund 12 weeks of family leave, at up to two-thirds of workers’ wages. It covers the full spectrum of family care, and it provides benefits for younger, part-time, lower-wage, contingent, and self-employed workers. As in some state paid-leave plans, it balances responsibility for the cost between employers and families – and would cost employees roughly the equivalent of a cup of coffee per week.
The FAMILY Act is a thoughtful and promising blueprint for what a smart paid family leave policy could look like, and Care.com has supported it since 2015. The evidence tells us that more robust benefits are better for mothers, fathers, children, and economies – and hundreds of community groups, civic organizations, and business leaders are hoping Congress listens. By passing the FAMILY Act or something like it, we can improve women’s health and economic outcomes, encourage active fatherhood, contribute to better infant health, and relieve some of the pressure on 43.5 million unpaid family caregivers, many working full-time, suffering stress and burnout because they don’t have the flexibility to work and provide elder care.
What’s more, paid family leave speaks to the American desire for strong families, legal fairness, and shared economic prosperity. It’s time to join the rest of the developed world.
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