What You Should Know

Many paid leave proponents have cited the present coronavirus pandemic in support of their argument that federal and state governments should enact new entitlements to paid sick leave and to paid family and medical leave. According to such proponents, these policies can help “workplaces and communities respond more effectively and equitably” to a pandemic.

However, there is little reason to believe that new government entitlements to paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave will effectively mitigate this pandemic, or will help prevent the next one. Indeed, states that have already enacted paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave entitlements—such as New York and New Jersey—have typically fared worse than states without such laws with respect to various measures of the severity of the pandemic. Enacting new paid leave entitlements would also impose substantial costs on employers and employees. In particular, such entitlements tend to depress employment and wages and disadvantage low-income families.

While paid leave policies may not stop a pandemic, paid leave is undeniably an important benefit for many American workers. Fortunately, employers have been voluntarily expanding their own paid leave policies in recent years, and the pandemic has only accelerated this expansion. And there are innovative, budget-neutral solutions for expanding access to paid leave in a manner that would not force substantial costs on employers and employees in the middle of an economic crisis.