Paid leave is essential for the economic security of all workers and is a policy with widespread bipartisan support, but some politicians continue to resist it at the local, state, and federal level. While many states and local governments have successfully implemented some form of paid leave, millions of workers across the country still face an impossible decision: take care of myself or a loved one and miss a paycheck or go to work. The United States remains the only high-income nation in the world without a national paid leave policy, including parental leave, sick leave, medical leave, or family care leave.
9to5 Georgia, in partnership with the Georgia Coalition for Paid Leave, released a report outlining the need for paid leave for all Georgians, the support it has across the state, and how it can be funded. Inside the report is a wealth of information that can support all of us as we fight for paid leave at the national, state, or local level. Here are four things we can all learn from the report:
#1 Paid Leave Benefits Working People and the Economy
Paid leave not only increases labor force participation, but increases employee retention, satisfaction and morale, improves employee health, and increases economic security. It’s really common sense! Yet, across Georgia and most of the United States, working families are pushed to make a choice between a paycheck and caring for a loved one. The report from the coalition outlines the economic benefits to workers, their families, and the economy as a whole.
Let’s keep it simple (you can get more details in the report!)– the economy is better when more women are in the workforce. When women have access to paid leave after having a child or caring for a loved one, they’re more likely to stay in the workforce and be economically stable. When all employees can take care of themselves and their families and not worry about a paycheck, they are more likely to continue working and employers don’t have to spend time and money replacing them.
#2 Paid Leave is Good for Our Health
This is a no brainer! Paid sick days mean people are able to rest and recover so employees aren’t spreading illness to their coworkers. Paid leave is essential for welcoming a new child, giving families time to bond, increasing chestfeeding rates, and improving the health of parents and babies in the short and long term.
Many workers also serve as unpaid caregivers for people with chronic illness. Paid leave allows workers time to focus solely on caring for themselves or their family members. It can also relieve caregiver burden – the physical, emotional, and psychological burden placed on caregivers. It’s easy to see how necessary paid leave is: when people don’t have to choose between a paycheck or caring for themselves and loved ones that makes us, our families, and our communities healthier.
#3 COVID-19 Highlighted the Need for Paid Leave
The federal government made it clear in March 2020 that they know the importance of paid leave for working families. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the Families First Coronavirus Response Act offered employees paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19. They knew families would need time to care for themselves or loved ones and that this time spent at home could prevent the spread of illness. This need doesn’t fade with the pandemic, families will always need access to paid leave.
We know that women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic in many ways, including in unemployment and caregiving. Women were pushed out of their jobs during the pandemic due to unaffordable and unreliable childcare, unpredictable school closures, and an increasing burden of elder care. With access to paid leave, families could better overcome these challenges and women would have a better chance to stay in the workforce.
#4 We’ve Already Got a Roadmap
Certain politicians love to dismiss paid leave as an impossibly expensive program. States across the country and countries across the world have proven this policy is not only feasible, but benefits working families, business, and public health. These countries and states have provided a roadmap for local and federal governments to implement paid leave programs and how to pay for it.
In the report, a section on lessons learned from states who have or are currently implementing paid leave programs includes how to estimate cost, length of leave, amount of wage replacement and implementation paths.