How could paid leave impact families and businesses if a policy is passed by Congress? Emily Tisch Sussman, host of the podcast Your Political Playlist and Senior Advisor to Paid Leave U.S., breaks it all down.

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An image of a mom speaking with her daughters.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Parents and caretakers are at a crossroads. As the country begins to reopen, many are being forced to choose between returning to a work environment that does not provide paid leave or potentially risk financial ruin to care for loved ones, themselves, or their children.

It's a lose-lose situation and many are opting to stay home, which weakens our economy and hurts our small businesses. That is why paid leave is front and center in Washington right now as Congress works to pass a massive reconciliation bill that includes paid leave.

Here are the basics families need to know.

What's Going On With Paid Leave?

As the economy bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are looking to return to normal, but with a workforce that is demanding more, the conversation around paid leave has grown.

Under the proposed paid leave policy in President Biden's American Families Plan, families would receive comprehensive coverage all while adding no additional cost for businesses. With a plan to give 12 weeks of paid leave and partial wage replacement through an equitable plan, the program is the first of its kind and would benefit both families and businesses.

Paid Leave For New Families

In the United States, one in four moms do not have or take maternity leave and return to work within two weeks days of having a baby—and 79 percent of all workers have no access to any paid family leave at all. Even worse, just 13 percent of working people are given paid paternity leave. That's not to mention the millions of those who take care of aging family members or loved ones who are ill.

This has put the United States in stark contrast to every other industrial nation, as the only industrialized country without paid leave, and has made it less appealing for anyone to return to the workforce. As a result our economy is weaker and less equipped to compete at the international level.

By passing a comprehensive paid leave policy, all types of families would finally have access to the time and money needed to care for their loved ones.

Paid Leave For Individuals

While we typically talk about paid family and medical leave in the context of welcoming a new child into a family or caring for loved ones, the number one reason people take leave is to take care of themselves with 51 percent of people saying that was the cause in 2018.

Prior to the pandemic, about 1.5 million workers without paid sick leave went to work each week despite feeling ill. With a paid leave policy we can prevent spreading illnesses like COVID-19, increase productivity and retention, and help keep the children of workers healthier too. It's a win-win for every business and every employee.

Paid Leave is Good For Business

Implementing a paid leave policy is not just good for families and individuals; it's also good for business. It is estimated that the U.S. GDP could grow by $2.4 trillion if we implement policies that include paid leave.

Even before the pandemic, 84 percent of Americans supported a national paid leave policy. And one clear takeaway from the pandemic is that when we don't have child care or paid leave, people cannot work, household incomes drop, and long-term economic growth suffers.

And as people return to work, they are taking paid leave into consideration more than ever.

What Comes Next?

There is now an opportunity to help support both families and businesses by passing a comprehensive paid leave policy. It is clear that paid leave is supported by most Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike. Now it is up to Congress to stay focused and get it done.

To learn more about paid leave visit paidleave.us and to voice support for expanding paid leave call your legislators at (202) 224-3121