Study Finds Americans Support Paid Family, Medical Leave

By Adam Roberts  – Pew study

Published on April 4, 2017

A fascinating study conducted by the Pew Research Center was released this week, and it will surely impact the future of labor law.

The study found most Americans support paid family or medical leave, and most supporters say that employers, instead of taxpayers, should cover the costs of that leave. However, the poll found that Americans are still divided on whether that leave should be mandated by the government or if employers should decide to provide leave themselves.

By the numbers, some of the highlights from polls include:

  • 82% of respondents support paid maternity leave, while 69% support paid paternity leave.
  • Of those who support both paid maternity and paternity leave, respondents said mothers should receive a median of 8.6 weeks off, while fathers should receive a median of 4.3 weeks.
  • 85% support paid leave to care for themselves, while 67% support paid leave to care for a family member who is seriously ill.
  • Across income groups, 72% of those who wanted or needed time off but did not take it said they could not afford to lose wages or salary.

This insightful study provides a useful snapshot of the changing views Americans have on paid family and medical leave. Surely, the momentum we are seeing to legislate on this topic at the state and local level will be sustained into the future, and may increase.

Traditionally, paid family and medical leave is an issue championed by Democratic legislators, but Republican support is increasing. Just this spring, Republican Missouri Governor Eric Greitens passed a statewide right-to-work law that was immediately followed by an order granting paid family leave to certain state employees.

At the state level, Republicans have the power. After the 2016 election Republicans control 68 out of 98 partisan legislative chambers. Further, 33 of the 50 governors in the country are Republican. However, dense urban areas tend to be controlled by Democrats.

If state officials do not implement paid family and medical leave laws at the state level, there will surely be a bigger push at the local level to provide these employee benefits. This week, the Seattle city council announced its support for a paid leave policy, but city officials are waiting to see if Washington state enacts a policy before pushing a city-only mandate.

All of this points to an uncertain future for paid leave benefit mandates. Surely, the Pew Research Center study will be used by supporters of paid leave around the country, but whether states act on a consistent, statewide policy of either requiring paid leave benefits or preempting local governments from requiring employers to provide paid leave remains to be seen.

Further, in states that do not regulate paid leave, we can expect to increasingly see cities explore paid leave laws.

Regardless of who does or does not enact different policies, GovDocs will be tracking these labor law changes around the nation.

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