Study: California's Paid Family Leave Law hasn't been a 'job killer'

The Sacramento BeeJanuary 12, 2011 

California's landmark family leave program didn't turn out to be the costly "job-killer" that businesses initially feared and has produced significant economic, social and health benefits for both male and female workers, economic and labor researchers found in a study released Tuesday.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, City University of New York and the Center for Economic and Policy Research examined the effects of the state's Paid Family Leave law, which passed in 2002 and took effect for most workers in 2004.

The program allows eligible employees to take up to six weeks off at 55 percent of their usual salary (with a cap that is adjusted for inflation) to care for a new child or a seriously ill relative.

Researchers Eileen Appelbaum and Ruth Milkman noted that, despite business opposition to the law, most employers they surveyed reported that the program had either a "positive effect" or "no noticeable effect" on productivity, profitability and performance, turnover and morale.

"What we find is that paid family leave is the least of work interruptions that employers have to deal with," Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said during a conference call today. "Most work is covered by other employees, and what we found is that the leave policy improves retention and morale. … Even those (executives) who had some misgivings before found that it was a non-event."

The study is based on results from surveys conducted in 2009-2010 of 253 employers and 500 individuals across the state about their experiences with the California family leave program. The report found that the program benefits both low-wage workers and those with jobs paying $20 or more per hour with health benefits.

Among workers in lower-paying jobs, 97 percent who used paid family leave were satisfied with the length of their leave, compared with 73 percent of those who took leaves but did not use the benefit. Workers in high-paying jobs were more likely than those in lower-paying jobs to return to the same employer.

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