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Expanding family, medical leave to small firms makes sense

The following is from AFL-CIO Now:

mother-with-baby_family-leave(April 28, 2014) — A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Expanding Family and Medical Leave to Small Firms, takes a look at one of the most common arguments against requiring small businesses to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — that doing so would provide an undue burden on those small businesses. Not surprisingly, the anti-working families’ argument is dismissed by the evidence.

The report examined a survey of small firms that offered at least a portion of the benefits as outlined in FMLA, which provides workers at firms with 50 or more employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave a year for employees who have a serious illness, so they can bond with a new child, or so they can care for an ill relative or military service member. About 83% of the small businesses surveyed offered at least a portion of the 12 weeks offered under FMLA, even though they were exempt under the law.

CEPR’s research shows that the conservative argument, as usual, falls flat. The report makes a compelling case that expanding FMLA to all workers would extend coverage to 34 million new workers without causing significant problems for small businesses. Helene Jorgensen and Eileen Appelbaum of CEPR, authors of the report, found little evidence supporting the anti-worker claims:

‘Our analysis found that small firms with leave policies that met the standards of the FMLA rarely reported any negative impacts on their business as a result of offering leave to their employees,’ said Jorgensen. Appelbaum added, ‘Less than one percent of small firm worksites characterized their experience complying with the FMLA standard as very difficult or even somewhat difficult. Extending coverage to all firms would provide job-protected leave to an additional 35 million workers.’

They further found that there were potential positive effects on small businesses, including increased productivity, profitability and employee satisfaction, as well as decreased turnover. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is pushing legislation at the national level to expand FMLA to small firms:

The landmark protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act sadly do not apply to more than two-in-five private-sector employees. It’s time for Congress to catch up to America’s workforce needs and pass the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act legislation I introduced earlier this year to expand these protections. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research has demonstrated, the vast majority of employers that have voluntarily adopted FMLA standards have seen no detrimental effect and found it easier to attract and retain strong employees.

Read the full report.

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