Sharon Lerner, a senior fellow at the public policy organization Demos, has spent the past year interviewing a diverse sample of New Jersey employers about the effect of paid leave. Those who admitted they’d feared being deluged by workers abusing the policy said they’d learned such fears were unfounded. None of the employers in the survey reported that paid leave had negatively affected their company’s productivity, profitability, or turnover, and some reported improved morale. In the California poll by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 99 percent of the companies surveyed found that offering paid leave raised morale, and 93 percent found that it reduced turnover.
Lerner says the main argument opponents make against paid leave is that business can’t afford it. In fact, the state programs are funded through the existing disability insurance structure, and businesses don’t have to pony up a dime. “The gap happens in public perception,” she explains. In the federal law envisioned by Gillibrand and DeLauro, employees and companies would contribute equally, 2¢ on every $10 earned, which averages out to about $2 a week. The amount would go into a fund that would work and accrue using the Social Security system.