California’s Paid Family Leave Law Is Working, New Study Finds

May 18, 2011 - 9:40am
Family Leave: mother and child

By Mike Hall. Posted on the AFL-CIO's blog. January 12, 2011.

 California’s paid family leave law “has been remarkably successful” and received high marks from both employers and workers, according to a new study released yesterday by researchers from UCLA/City University of New York (CUNY) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

Study co-author Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at UCLA and the CUNY, says the law, one of just two paid family leave laws in the nation,

has helped hundreds of thousands of workers—especially in low-wage jobs—balance the costs and challenges of tending to family and work and it has begun to close the gap in access to paid leave benefits.

New Jersey is the only other state with a paid family leave law.

The business community vigorously fought against the now six-year-old law, claiming it would be costly and easily abused. But paid family leave has disproved opponents’ claims that the program would be a “job killer,” says Eileen Applebaum, the other co-author and senior economist at CEPR.

Almost all employers found the program had positive or neutral effects on areas such as productivity, turnover and morale.

The law allows private-sector workers to take up to six weeks a year off at 55 percent of a worker’s wages to care for a new child or a sick family member. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) law allows up to 12 weeks off, but it is unpaid.

According to state figures, 167,523 people took time off to take care of a new child and 23,220 took time off to care for ill family members and, on average, received $488 a week.

For workers, the study found:

•    Higher-paid workers ($20 an hour or more) with health insurance are more likely to take advantage of the program than lower-paid workers (less than $20 an hour) without benefits.
•    The program greatly increased the amount of wages replaced for lower-paid workers.
•    Workers who used the leave were more likely to return to their jobs.
•    More men took time off to be with their family after paid family leave took effect.

The employers surveyed overwhelmingly reported that paid family leave had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on:

•    Productivity—89 percent;
•    Profitability/performance—91 percent;
•    Turnover—96 percent; and
•    Employee morale—99 percent.

As Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work, says:

California’s experience shows that paid family leave is a win-win for employers and employees. Policymakers in other states and at the federal level should take note of this study and the great strides California is making to bring the workplace into sync with 21st century families.

Click here for the full report, “Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California.” Also click here for a look at the need for paid sick leave for the 44 million workers who have none.

This post originally appeared on the AFL-CIO's blog

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