Friday, October 9, 2015

The Cost of Doing Nothing

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Last month, the Department of Labor released a report on what it costs to not pass paid leave policies in the United States. Currently, only 12% of workers have access to paid parental and family leave, and about four in ten get paid medical leave through short term disability. For new and adoptive parents, people dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis, or people involved in accidents, the lack of long term paid leave is devastating to their pockets and to their lives.

Here are some of the findings:

Children have better health outcomes when their parents have paid leave:

  • Increased birth weight, decreased premature births, and decreased infant mortality are all associated with access to maternity leave.
    • Mothers who choose and are able to breastfeed and have maternity leave tend to have better breastfeeding outcomes.
  • Children with serious or chronic illness have better physical and emotional health outcomes when their parents have access to fully paid leave. Parents also report that their emotional health is better and they have a decreased likelihood of financial problems during that time.
  • Fathers who take two weeks or more of parental leave are more likely to be actively involved in their child's care nine months after birth - including getting up in the night with a child, feeding, and changing diapers.
Businesses save money through paid leave policies:
  • Paid maternity leave in particular and paid leave in general reduces turnover costs and increases retention, saving businesses the money spent on replacing valuable members of their team.
  • Offering paid leave makes it easier for companies to compete for talent internationally.
Our economy is better off with paid leave policies:
  • Paid maternity leave increases female participation in the labor force, which in turn supports economic growth for our country. DOL estimates indicate that if women aged 25-54 participated in the labor force at the same rate as Canada or Germany (which offer family policies including paid leave), 5 million more women would be in the labor force, generating $500 billion more economic activity each year.
Families are financially better off with paid leave policies:

  • 60% of workers without fully paid leave put off bills, used savings, and/or cut their leave short to make ends meet.
    • 84%  of workers with unpaid/partially paid leave put off spending, which hurts their families and our economy.
  • Mothers with access to paid leave are more likely to be employed following childbirth, In fact, access to paid leave policies can increase the number of hours worked. Work benefits a family in the short-term, of course, but it also gives women more of a safety net in retirement thanks to increased savings and more time under Social Security.
    • Paid maternity leave is associated with increased pay for women with children, which helps close the pay gap.
  • Women who have and use paid parental leave are 39% less likely to receive public assistance in the year following childbirth.
Finally, some of the cost of doing nothing can't be measured in numbers. As the report points out, women are being sidelined in business while men are denied opportunities at home. 

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