Letter: Paid Family Leave Would Make CT More Appealing and Competitive

Letter to the editor submitted by Lorelei O’Hagan 

We are all concerned about the economic viability of our state, the inability to attract young talent, and that people are starting to leave. Businesses are not flocking here and young people, are not optimistic about the future. We need a strong foundation for our economy and a vibrant business environment, and we want to help the families who have already invested in Connecticut, don’t we?

So why, with overwhelming support across party lines, did our Greenwich State representatives, including Senator Scott Frantz, continuously vote down the paid family leave bill that would uniquely contribute toward these goals?

Reviewed this year by the Finance and Labor Committees SB-01/HB5387 The Paid Family Leave Act is a key piece of legislation that will make Connecticut more appealing and competitive. We are currently the outlier; all our neighboring states already have versions of state wide paid leave in place.

This April, President and CEO of the Greenwich YWCA, Mary Lee Kiernan, testified in support of this bill as an opportunity to “save significant money in operating budgets and provide economic security for all employees. It increases job satisfaction, improves workplace culture and enhances employee productivity.” 1 Paid leave helps businesses of all sizes attract and retain talent, reducing the costly rate of turnover.

Paid leave also impacts local budgets providing relief to aid programs. “Women who took paid family leave were 40% less likely to be receiving food stamps in the year after the birth of a child than a woman who returned to work without taking leave.” 2

Contrary to the rhetoric that this proposal is just too expensive for businesses, the program passes zero direct costs to employers. With reasonable startup costs, financing is achieved long term entirely through small employee deductions, as an insurance policy. The economic case is overwhelmingly. Far from being a drag or killing jobs, the experiences from California have “proven it is a positive force in the economy.” 3 Additionally, paid leave has been proven to contribute to a decrease in infant mortality, child behavioral problems, and rates of maternal post-partum depression so both parents can focus on their family, when needed, and then get back to their careers.

This bill is important for all Connecticut families. While the Federal Medical and Family Leave Act, (FMLA) does provide un-paid job protection to some, it is inaccessible to far too many and of those who have it, too few can forego consecutive paychecks. Only 16% of eligible employees reported using this in 2012. Employees report taking leave for their own serious health conditions, parental leave, to care for sick and aging family, and to address the effects of deployment in the military. Paid leave impacts the entire workforce.

1. https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00001&which_year=2017

2. https://www.dol.gov/wb/media/DC%20Paid%20Family%20Leave.pdf

3. http://chamberreview.org/6.1_paid_leave.html