National Partnership for Women & Families

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Debra L. Ness, President

From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

It’s Time to Stop Claiming Businesses Oppose Paid Leave Policies

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

Each week, it seems, we learn that another company is adopting or expanding family friendly policies, giving more employees access to paid time off. The list of businesses of all sizes that support paid leave continues to grow. It’s because paid leave is good for business as well as workers and their families, and business leaders across the nation know it.

Last week, we gained even more evidence that business support for paid family and medical leave, as well as paid sick days and a higher minimum wage, is strong. According to internal data from the Council of State Chambers of Commerce that were leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy, 82 percent of 1,000 C-suite executives surveyed support increased paternity leave, 72 percent support increased maternity leave, 73 percent support paid sick days, and 80 percent support raising the minimum wage.

You wouldn’t know it from the positions the U.S. Chamber and state chambers have taken over the years. What makes these findings so stunning is that Chamber lobbyists fight against these policies at the local, state and national levels time after time.

The poll results were revealed during a closed-door webinar sponsored by the Council of State Chambers in February. Astonishingly, the event was designed to coach lobbyists from state and local Chambers on ways to thwart the “empathy” that Chamber members feel for their employees and their support for these family friendly workplace policies.

The leaked survey and video footage make clear that when organized big business groups pour resources into blocking paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, a higher minimum wage, and other worker friendly policies, they are pursuing a policy agenda that many of the businesses they claim to represent do not support. It’s a terrible shame because, when they are successful in stopping progress, they harm the workers they rely on, their own communities, local economies and these businesses themselves.

In fact, a large and growing body of evidence shows that paid leave and paid sick days policies actually benefit businesses by improving employee morale and productivity and by reducing turnover. These policies also help keep workers and families financially stable, which promotes consumer demand and strengthens the economy.

Dozens of states and cities have considered and advanced paid leave and paid sick days policies in recent years. Paid family and medical leave programs are now in place in three states - and soon will be in New York too. Both San Francisco and California are expanding their paid leave policies, precisely because they are working so well.

The reason business leaders support these policies too is that they level the playing field, spread the cost of leave, and make it possible for employers to provide the paid time they already know will benefit their employees and their bottom line.

Still, just 13 percent of private sector workers in this country have paid family leave through their employers. It’s long past time for organized business lobbies like the Chamber to stop pouring resources into knee-jerk, baseless attempts to block paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and minimum wage increases. The public, lawmakers and many business leaders support these policies, and now we know Chamber members do too. That’s a consensus every elected official should recognize, and it should propel even greater progress toward making these policies available to many more workers in the months and years ahead.


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