Only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That extremely low number makes Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to provide paid parental leave to state employees an even more important step in the right direction.
Holcomb on Dec. 11 signed an executive order providing up to four weeks of paid leave for executive branch employees to spend time with newborns or newly adopted children.
“This policy sends a strong message to attract more top talent to the state government workplace,” Holcomb said.
Absolutely, it does. And Indiana can be proud it’s now included in the handful of progressive states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, to name a few) that bring the issue to the forefront.
Despite the low number of workers offered paid leave, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey has found a surprising 83 percent of employers support it.
These businesses must either have taken note of extensive studies showing the benefits of such leave or have seen firsthand what it can accomplish.
Research has shown paid family leave supports economic growth by increasing productivity, boosting employee morale and making it easier “for businesses to retain skilled workers,” according to a fact sheet by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.
It increases the likelihood workers will return to their jobs, which increases labor force participation, helps employees maintain pre-leave wages, therefore raising their long-term earnings. For women, this is especially crucial; paid family leave cannot be left out of the gender equality discussion because it also helps close the pay gap. Not only that, but it can help children get a stronger start in life and reduce a family’s reliance on public assistance.
Many workplaces offer substantial sick, vacation and personal leave to every employee. True, these days can be used for family leave. Yet, employers who claim they’re sufficient and interchangeable are not in touch with reality. Policies such as these place more value on trips to the Bahamas than on caring for a child.
The employee who chooses to start a family must make a decision. That person also may want to take a trip to a tropical paradise, but instead will be recovering from labor and learning how to function with no sleep. This employee still needs a real vacation for her well-being, but likely won’t have that choice after using vacation time for parental leave.
So, what would paid parental leave mean to both employers and employees? It would assure employees their workplaces have made family a priority. It would show businesses value workers who use their own time and energy caring for other human beings, and prove they understand caring for a child isn’t all giggles and bows. It would confirm they recognize this time off is hard, and not a vacation. With the support of employers, workers feel valued and return to the same jobs. They are more productive. Skilled, highly valuable workers then remain in jobs that fit them.
In a state that’s looking to retain high-quality workers and employers, these benefits should seriously be considered. “Two million Hoosiers need additional training to compete in the 21st century workforce, and there will be over 1 million job openings in Indiana due to retirements and the creation of new jobs by 2025,” according to Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs website.
Several strategies are in the works to help Hoosiers receive the education and training they need to fill these high-demand, high-wage jobs. Paid family leave should be a part of every institution and employer’s strategy.
Holcomb’s executive order on paid leave has many asking, what’s next, what more can we do? Those are legitimate questions, important ones. Requiring paid leave scares some business leaders and owners.
But when taking a look at the statistics, a more important question might be, what’s the cost of not offering these benefits? Those who have jumped on board agree: There are few, if any, downsides.
With 83 percent of employers nationwide supporting the action, the debate on whether to mandate paid leave need not exist. If businesses step up, just as our governor did, the results will speak for themselves. We encourage them to do so.