The U.S. is the only developed country in the world without some form of paid family leave. Should Americans receive paid family leave? If so, how should a paid family leave program be designed?
In an effort to address these questions, the Next Social Contract Initiative hosted Betsey Stevenson, Chief Economist for the Office of Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis; Anne O’Leary, Executive Director of the Berkeley Center on health, Economic and Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Katie Corrigan, Director of Workplace Flexibility 2010 at Georgetown University Law Center; and New America’s own Lauren Damme, a policy analyst with the Next Social Contract Initiative and author of a recent series on Paid Family leave Insurance.
Dr. Stevenson discussed the concept of a “good job” which ensures a wage that allows individuals to support their family and have a work-life balance. One component of a “good job” would be a paid leave policy similar to that of California, which shares the burden between all of the involved parties in order to create a sustainable program that supports workers and increases worker productivity. The federal government, Dr. Stevenson told the audience, has even set aside funds in its annual budget to help more states develop paid family leave programs. Dr. Stevenson goes on to discuss how maternal leave policies affect the career decisions of female workers and how the lack of paid leave policies contributes to a gender wage gap, wherein the median female wage earner will earn $400,000 less over her lifetime than her male counterpart.
Katie Corrigan discussed paid family policies within the context of workplace “security.” Corrigan explained how current leave policies (most notably those contained in the Family and Medical Leave Act) are insufficient in providing workers with the necessary time to address family issues without jeopardizing their employment or promotional opportunities. She also discussed talent retention and sustaining communities and families in light of broader economic issues.
Ann O’Leary outlined the family security insurance proposal developed through a collaborative effort between Workplace Flexibility 2010 at Georgetown Law Center and the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic and Family Security at Berkeley Law School. She further presented an overview of the research surrounding family leave policies, including the benefits it provides for workers, families, employers and the wider economy. She emphasized that existing family leave policies result in better health and personal outcomes for workers as well as resulting in positive, or at least neutral, outcomes for employers and firms.
Family Security Insurance, by Georgetown Law Workplace Flexibility 2010 and Berkeley Law Center on Health, Economic, and Family Security
Paid Family Leave, a Next Social Contract series, New America Foundation