The subject of paid leave for all American workers has been a hot topic in recent years. Currently, the United States stands alone as the only industrialized nation in the world without required paid leave for workers. More people are speaking out about the issue, though, and some of the presidential candidates have weighed in as well.
Most of the major Republican contenders see no room for paid family leave in their political platforms. For Donald Trump, paid family leave is one of the few things he seems to not have much to say about. In an interview with Fox Business, he said, “Well, it’s something that’s being discussed. I think we have to keep our country very competitive so you have to be careful of it, but certainly there are a lot of people discussing it.”
The exception among the Republicans is Marco Rubio. According to his website, Rubio’s plan is, “A 25% non-refundable tax credit for businesses that voluntarily offer at least four weeks of paid family leave, limited to twelve weeks of leave and $4,000 per employee each year.”
Rubio stands alone in his party, though. Sen. Ted Cruz has a slightly optimistic view, saying that he supports both maternity and paternity leave on a personal level, “But I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, hardly even acknowledges the issue. When asked what he thinks should be done about the fact that the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world with paid family leave, he said, “I don’t think we need more federal rules.”
Carly Fiorina said in an interview with CNN that the private sector “is doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent.”
While Fiorina is correct that paid leave policies attract the right talent, she is incorrect regarding how many companies are putting it into practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12 percent of all private industry workers received paid family leave in 2013.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose poor performance in recent polls and absence from the main stage of the last GOP debate may indicate a dropout from the race soon, said of the issue, “I’m not, as president, going to mandate that each business give paid sick leave.” He spoke against the issue for the state of New Jersey, in which some municipalities are mandating paid sick time, saying it “make[s] New Jersey less and less competitive. And then when businesses leave the state, they want to know why.”
DiversityInc Top 50
However, the assertion that such policies make businesses less competitive is inaccurate, as demonstrated by DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity all of which offer telecommuting to their employees to promote a work-life balance, compared to just 58 percent of other companies across the country, according to a 2013 SHRM report. Top 50 Companies have consistently outperformed the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
According to Ellen Williams, Assistant Director of Diversity & Inclusiveness at EY (No. 4 on the Top 50), “Early on our journey, which started back in the 1990s, we began working with moms to provide work life balance. Today, we now focus [on] offering flexibility to all of our people.” By providing the opportunity for a work-life balance, Williams says, “we meet the needs of our employees.”
TD Bank (No. 39) strives to extend such practices to all of their employees. “Both full time and part time TD Bank employees are eligible to accrue Paid Time Off, allowing part time working parents the same flexibility as full time employees,” explained Cyndi DiCastelnuovo, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at TD. She also added that the company offers paid maternity and paternity leave, active duty leave for military members and leave for people who have to take care of an ill relative.
Accenture (No. 15) recently increased its maternity-leave benefits to include up to 16 weeks of paid leave for all of its U.S. employees, both full and part time. The company also provides eight weeks of paid paternity leave for any other primary caregiver of a child. Stephen J. Rohleder, Group Chief Executive North America, emphasized the need to give back to employees who work hard, said, “Providing our people with these career opportunities that are unmatched in the industry means that we must help them navigate the choices and challenges of caring for a new child while they continue pursuing their careers.”
Rohleder also explained the benefits for the company when implementing such generous policies: “These expanded benefits will help us attract, retain and inspire the best people.”
All three major Democratic contenders are already aware of the overwhelming benefits of paid family leave and have made public their support for it.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a 2014 interview with CNN said that while she was not sure if federally mandated paid leave could realistically be implemented yet, she definitely supported it: “I have been a strong proponent of giv[ing] more people the chance to do what is most important in life,” she also said at the time. “And that is to balance work and family, and to take care of your family obligations, whether it’s a newborn child, a sick child, an aging relative or any other emergency.”
In 2014, Clinton suggested trying different policies at the state level in order to determine the best strategy to execute nationally. “States try things out. And then we check to see how it’s working, and then we try to take it to the national level,” she explained. “So, I think, with paid leave, we ought to encourage states and localities that have the political will to do this to begin to implement it, and then we ought to try to see how we can expand it.”
Recently, Clinton has cited the success of California’s paid leave program as an example to follow nationwide: “It has not had the ill effects that the Republicans are always saying that it will have, and I think this is typical Republican scare tactics.”
At the Oct. 13 Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) pointed out that the U.S. is alone in its lack of paid leave policies. “Here’s the point: every other major country on Earth, every one, including some small countries, say that when a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby. We are the only major country,” he said. “That’s not what the American people want.”
Sanders’s belief does not extend only to mothers, though. He is a co-sponsor of the FAMILY Act, which would give working mothers and fathers 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. This also covers time needed to take care of a seriously ill spouse, child or domestic partner, or if the employee is suffering from a serious health condition.
Former Baltimore Mayor and former Gov. of Maryland Martin O’Malley also expressed his support for the FAMILY Act. In a Sept. 15 op-ed for The Gazette, titled “America succeeds when women and families succeed,” he made his beliefs very clear: “All parents both men and women, gay or straight, married or single should be able to take at least 12 weeks of leave, with pay, in order to care for newborn children or other loved ones.”