Here is a universal truth about businesses in America: No matter how big or small, from 10 workers to 10,000, every single American employer has employees who will encounter life events that require some time off from work. Sometimes these life events are painful, like a spouse developing a serious illness, and sometimes they are joyful, like the birth of a new child. But good or bad, in far too many cases, these life events mean that workers are forced to make a choice: stay at work and don’t take care of their family, or care for their family but lose the income they need to stay afloat. No American worker should have to make this choice.
We are the only industrialized country on earth that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid leave. And we are taking a serious financial hit for it. When workers have access to paid leave, it means they’re not losing out on important wages and retirement benefits. Workers with paid leave end up with more money in their bank accounts over the course of a career than workers who don’t have paid leave. Over a lifetime, that extra money really adds up: an additional $284,000 for men, and even more — $324,000 — for women. That’s more investment. It’s more spending power.
And if every worker had access to paid leave, which is what I’m fighting for in the Senate, American workers as a whole could potentially put an additional $20.6 billion in wages in their pockets, every single year. Because when some life event inevitably happens, these working men and women would no longer have to quit their job or take time off without pay, as so many American workers have to do now.
Paid leave is also good for businesses themselves. California already has a statewide paid leave policy of its own — they’ve had it for more than a decade — and business owners there took a survey about it. Here’s what the survey found: About 90 percent of California business owners came back saying that paid leave had a positive or, at worst, no negative effect on their profits, their productivity, or their retention. And 99 percent of the business owners said it boosted employee morale. In other words, businesses in California have realized that what’s good for employees is good for the bottom line.
We need a national, gender-neutral paid leave policy in this country, so that every woman and man who works in America has access to paid leave when they need it — not just the 14 percent who are lucky enough to have it today. I’m fighting hard for this policy in the Senate — my bill is called the FAMILY Act — and I urge you to join me in that fight, because no one is immune from life events that can suddenly happen in our lives. The FAMILY Act would only cost businesses and workers the cost of a cup of coffee per week, but the only way we’re going to pass it, and finally become the last industrialized country to have paid leave, is if enough of us raise our voices about this issue. So call your elected officials, write letters to the editor, speak out about it to everyone you know, and let’s finally give every American worker access to paid leave!
Originally published at medium.com