Prioritizing Caregiving Is a Smart Business PracticeJuly 13, 2009
I was recently on the Hill lobbying on behalf of the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460/S. 1152), and I fielded a question from a congressional staffer who was concerned about placing any sort of additional financial burden on the state and businesses. I have to admit that I was relieved; at least this staffer asked. Too many people simply assume that the new requirements would place unfair burdens on employers and reduce productivity. It is a common and false misconception.
The Family and Medical Leave Act faced similar opposition before it was passed. However, in 2001, the bipartisan Commission on Family and Medical Leave released a study that showed that those fears were unfounded. The study reported that nearly 90 percent of covered employers said that complying with FMLA brought no or minimal increase in their administrative costs and that some employers reported cost savings.
I watched contently as the staffer relaxed his guarded demeanor as I explained this and stated that similar fears about the Healthy Families Act are likewise unfounded. In fact, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates, the Healthy Families Act will actually result in a net savings of $8 billion per year after covering costs of paid leave. The savings stem from the decreased productivity and high turnover rates that lacking paid sick days causes. Without sick days, employees often come to work sick, infecting coworkers and decreasing productivity. Furthermore, employees have to decide between caring for a sick family member and jeopardizing their job. This makes workers more likely to send their children to school sick, further perpetuating the cycle, and leaves the four in ten adults with elder care responsibilities in an impossible situation.
There are many more reasons why America, and especially American women, needs the Healthy Families Act. For now, I’d settle for this simple statement to be broadcast into every congressional office: Prioritizing Caregiving Is a Smart Business Practice!
Paid sick days deserve serious consideration now. In this economy, we need the Healthy Families Act more than ever.
For a more comprehensive list of what the Healthy Families Act would accomplish, check out AAUW’s letter to the House and the Senate. Then, urge your representative and senators to support this important legislation.
This post is by Stephanie Vertongen, AAUW Public Policy Fellow.