Paid Time Off: It Brings (Some) of Your Workers Back

Yesterday, an article in the New York Times (The Upshot by Claire Cane Miller) discussed paid time off and how government and employer policies can result in more workers with children back in the workforce. Of course, it exposed the rift between employers of low skilled and highly skilled workers – and we could definitely get together over a cup of coffee to break down the socioeconomic issues there. The article also discussed the role of paid paternity leave as a means of relieving maternity leave pressures, and of the growing effect that elder care will play in the coming years. (Even more coffee!)

I was going to cheat and give you a link to the article, but its behind a paywall. Instead, here are some highlights:

As you’ve heard many times, the U.S. is the only developed country not to offer paid maternity leave as part of federal policy. About 59% of workers say that their companies offer them paid leave. While this makes it easy to count money saved where there is no paid leave in the budget, the ultimate effect may be harmful to the companies without paid leave.

After California became the first state to offer paid parental leave with the six week Paid Family Leave program, “new mothers were more likely to return to work, according to a study by Maya Rossin-Slater and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University and Christopher J. Ruhm of the University of Virginia. One to three years later, mothers of small children were working more and at higher incomes. Paid leave provides job continuity, economists say, so women are less likely to leave the labor force. Paid leave is particularly important for low-income mothers, who more than doubled their maternity leaves in California.”

On the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, Google found that “postpartum women were leaving the company at a rate twice that of other employees. So Google expanded its maternity leave to five months fully paid from three months partly paid. Attrition decreased by 50 percent.”

For Google, and other places who require a highly skilled workforce, the cost of paid time off was less than the cost of recruiting another highly skilled employee.

Different workplaces, however, have different “cost calculations.” As the article notes, “At low-skilled jobs . . . the calculus shifts, because workers are more easily replaceable. That has led to increased inequality, because high-skilled workers tend to have paid leave while low-skilled ones do not.”

Of course, all the employer-provided paid leave benefits are in addition to the job protections under state and federal law. Many employers –not yours, dear reader, given that you are looking at a blog about employment law, I assume you are on top of this — don’t provide the full protections of those laws. For more information on those laws, please see my prior posts.

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