New legislation introduced to the D.C. Council this week will boost paid leave to 16 weeks, putting the district among the top U.S. employers offering paid leave benefits.
The new legislation would allow most D.C. employees paid time off for reasons ranging from the birth of a child to caring for a sick parent or family member.
Earlier this year, the city of Boston implemented a paid parental leave policy for city employees.
“I think it certainly is possible we’ll see either an increase at the state level or, even potentially at some point, paid family and medical leave at the federal level as well,” says Carol Sladek, work/life consulting lead with Aon Hewitt. “Whether that’s imminent versus a little bit longer term is yet to be seen.”
In D.C., a government-run fund created by a new tax on employers would pay for the benefit. Employees earning up to $52,000 a year would get 100% of pay. Higher earners could get $1,000 weekly plus 50% of additional income up to a maximum of $3,000.
“Only 13% of workers nationally have access to any paid leave, and for those in low-income jobs, those numbers are even lower, leading to heart-wrenching consequences,” said D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), one of the lead supporters of the measure.
Also see: Momentum building for paid leave
“The long-term effects of this bill are good for our businesses, as it will increase the likelihood [of returning] to work after an event, thereby decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover,” noted Council Member David Grosso, (I-At Large), the other co-signer of the bill.
“Study after study shows that advancing this policy is not only the right thing to do for new parents; it’s also the economically smart thing to do for businesses, taxpayers and the economy,” says Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and CEO of MomsRising, an advocacy organization. “Those advantages are why every other industrialized country has this crucial policy already in place.”
Echoing Grosso, Silverman also lauded the positive outcomes for employers who offer paid leave as a benefit. “When workers struggled to balance caregiving and the need for a paycheck, their bosses and coworkers feel it too,” she said.
But the issue remains a divisive one for American businesses, particularly for smaller employers who might not have the financial resources to offer extended paid leave. “For some employers, it’s a nice philosophical benefit that they want to offer, but practically may not be able to make that leap to an extended period of paid leave,” says Sladek.
“Anyone can suggest increasing benefits will attract potential employees, but it takes more than a wish to pay for those costs,” said Steve Holupchinski, CFO, Impressions Incorporated in a recent letter to EBN.
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