A New Paid Leave Entitlement Won’t Help Address A Pandemic
- Many progressives are using the pandemic to push a new government entitlement to paid sick leave and paid medical and family leave. They argue that a paid leave entitlement could help “workplaces and communities respond more effectively and equitably” to a pandemic.
- A government entitlement to paid leave, however, is unlikely to prevent or effectively limit a pandemic. Studies have not shown that such entitlements significantly slowed the transmission of infectious disease.
- In fact, states that have adopted paid leave entitlements, like New York and New Jersey, have generally fared worse with respect to various measures of the severity of the pandemic.
A Paid Leave Entitlement Would Harm Working Families
- A new government entitlement to paid leave would impose serious costs on working families.
- Sick leave mandates are associated with lower wages, particularly in sectors that employ low-income workers. After the passage of San Francisco’s mandate, nearly 40 percent of employers who had not previously offered sick leave reduced employee compensation.
- A paid family and medical leave entitlement would require a significant payroll tax increase. Recent research also raises serious concern that such a program would transfer income from low-income to higher-income families, because low-income families would pay higher taxes but are less likely to receive benefits.
There Are Better Ways To Support Paid Leave
- We can expand access to paid leave without harming working families.
- Employers are increasingly voluntarily offering paid leave benefits.
- Policies such as creating a voluntary family and medical leave insurance program, advancing Social Security benefits or Child Tax Credits to new parents, permitting employees to accrue paid leave in lieu of overtime pay, and modernizing tax-preferred savings accounts could also support paid leave without burdening employers or increasing taxes on workers.
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