LoBalbo: Floren’s Opinion on Paid Family Medical Leave Missed the Mark

Submitted by Katherine LoBalbo, a graduate of Lehigh University with over a decade of experience in the construction industry. She is also a mother of two girls and a longtime resident of Cos Cob.

I usually enjoy reading Livvy Floren’s opinion pieces which I find refreshingly positive, unfortunately the opinion letter on Paid Family Medical Leave missed the mark. Many workplaces, including my own already utilize private sector insurance which employees can buy into selecting terms and percentage of payout. This was an optional employer provided benefit with an additional cost fitted to my needs on top of standard medical insurance costs. This is not paid leave, and it is misleading to call it such.

After the birth of my daughter in January, I used an additional purchased insurance, which supplements part of a paycheck after an exclusion period. Is it helpful? Yes, but it is not paid leave. If it is available to you then payments are only enacted while you are considered disabled, the medical standard defines the disabled length of time after a birth as six to eight weeks. Imagine for a moment leaving a six week old baby to go back to a forty hour work week in order to provide for your family. Yes, some choose this path, however, for many adults taking leave without pay is simply not a choice, returning to work as soon as possible is a requirement to avoid jeopardizing bill payments and taking on debt.

Established economic data for paid leave is overwhelmingly positive. Paid leave benefits small businesses by reducing the costly rate of turnover. Paid leave not only translates to retention of talent, but increased job satisfaction and enhanced employee productivity. Furthermore, State managed employee funded paid leave is achieved long term entirely through employee payroll, passing zero direct costs to employers.

Why should employees pay? Well, the benefits for employees are clear, leave has been shown to contribute to a decrease in infant mortality, decrease child behavioral problems, decrease rates of maternal post-partum depression, it provides time to balance ones focus on family and career, instead of worrying about the bottom line. The US Department of Labor (DoL) agrees in its 2015 report “The Cost of Doing Nothing”. In fact, the US DoL data also shows it is more likely for an employee to take a leave for illness rather than the misconception that leave is intended or utilized solely for child birth. Paid leave programs drive growth and improve performance across the entire workforce.

While in either opinion, the employee is making payments, privatizing means more management for the employer, a disadvantage for a small companies, and results in inequitable care for employees across Connecticut. I’ve witnessed first-hand the anguish and stress both men and women experience in the workforce while establishing care for an aging parent, dealing with illness, or welcoming a child, and it simply disgusts me that in Connecticut we treat hard working people in this way. Paid Family Leave, not privatized supplemental insurance, is a tool to achieve equity in today’s workforce and it is time we start using it.

Opinion Submitted by Katherine LoBalbo  is graduate of Lehigh University with over a decade of experience in the construction industry. She is also a mother of two girls and a longtime resident of Cos Cob.