April 7, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to create a paid maternity leave program. During a recent address to Congress he even went a step further, pledging to work with both parties to craft legislation that would benefit new dads as well as new moms. If the new administration is serious about advancing paid parental leave, it should get behind proposed legislation that would create a national paid family and medical leave program, which small businesses overwhelmingly support based on the results of a new survey.
The online poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of Small Business Majority and the Center for American Progress, found that a vast 7 in 10 owners and operators of small businesses support the recently reintroduced Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a federal paid leave insurance program funded by modest contributions from employers and employees. Nearly half — 47 percent — say they strongly favor this type of program, which would ensure that employees could receive part of their salary for up to 12 weeks when they need to take time off to recover from a serious illness or to care for a new child or a sick family member.
Small employers also strongly support state-administered paid family and medical leave insurance programs: 61 percent support state paid leave programs funded by both employer and employee contributions, with each contributing approximately two-tenths of 1 percent of an employee’s wages. Fifty-six percent support programs funded entirely by employee contributions — approximately two-fifths of 1 percent of an employee’s wages.
Small firms favor paid leave programs because they benefit their bottom lines by helping them attract and retain talented employees, but that isn’t the only reason for their support. Small business owners also think of their employees as family, and they want their workers to have the freedom to care for their own loved ones when needed. That sentiment is what led Heather Whaling, Founder and CEO of Geben Communication in Columbus, Ohio and a part of Small Business Majority’s network, to institute a paid family leave program at her business.
“I developed a paid family leave program for my business because investing in employees is good for business and good for families,” Heather said. “I believe paid family and medical leave programs are important for small businesses because they help recruit and retain employees.”
Fortunately for small business owners who don’t have resources like Heather but are looking to offer paid family or medical leave programs, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) recently reintroduced the FAMILY Act. It already has the support of at least 27 senators and would go a long way toward helping small businesses take care of their employees, which in turn is good for those business’ bottom lines.
While the new administration has yet to introduce its much-anticipated maternity leave proposal, thanks to the FAMILY Act it doesn’t have to. It just needs to get behind this bill that would level the playing field for America’s entrepreneurs by helping more employers offer paid family leave benefits.
John Arensmeyer is the founder and CEO of Small Business Majority.
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