The Paid Leave Fairy Tale

Why mandated paid family leave is bad for business and bad for most women.

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Most 2020 presidential candidates support government mandated paid family leave. That means government will order businesses to provide a certain amount of paid time off for new parents.

That sounds kind. Politicians and the media point out that only the U.S. and Papua New Guinea do not require paid time off for parents.

“It’s disingenuous to say [that]” explains Patrice Lee Onwuka, a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum.

Onwuka tells John Stossel that most full-time American workers already get paid leave. “About 17% of workers have paid parental leave … but you jump to 60, 70, 80 percent when you consider people have sick time off, overtime or all-encompassing personal time.”

These benefits are voluntarily provided to even lower-level employees.

“Chipotle workers, CVS workers, Walmart workers…,” says Onwuka.

“Why would CVS and Walmart provide this voluntarily?” asks Stossel.

“For an employer to attract … good talent or retain their talent, they need to offer benefits that really resonate with workers,” explains Onwuka. “Paid maternity and paternity leave is one of those benefits.”

“Politicians are so arrogant,” says Stossel, “that they now tell people that mandating leave for all employees will be ‘good for business.’  Somehow they don’t know that business knows better what’s good for business.”

In truth, says Stossel, mandated leave turns out to be “bad for business and not even good for most women.”

Onwuka points out, “If we look at how the rest of the world has provided very generous, mandated paid leave plans, we see that it actually has a negative impact on women.”

Why would that be? Because mandatory leave makes companies fear hiring young women.  “If an employer has a young woman in front of him of child bearing age,” say Onwuka, “he’s thinking, okay, I have to provide paid time off. I have a potential other employee who’s a male…”

A family leave mandate makes the man a safer bet.

“In California, the first state to mandate paid family leave, a study found women of childbearing age were more likely to be unemployed,” explains Stossel.

Comparing Europe to America, Onwuka explains, “American women are twice as likely to be in senior level positions, managerial positions, then women in Europe … it’s very much tied to these mandates around paid leave and paid time off.”