Why It’s Time for Paid Leave in Massachusetts

Today I testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development chaired by Senator Daniel A. Wolf and Representative John W. Scibak, to provide the employer’s perspective on the hot issue of paid family medical leave. My testimony follows:

Thank you for your generous attention to the important issue of paid family and medical leave. I’m here to speak about the issue from the perspective of a business owner. I am a board member of the Alliance for Business Leadership, but today, I am here in my role as co-founder of InkHouse, a PR firm that employs 80 people, roughly 80 percent of whom are women. That’s important because women are far more likely to end up as caregivers than men. I’m also a mother of two young girls, so I understand this issue from multiple perspectives.

As a mother and an employer, I know that paid family leave is the right thing to do for the good of our community. I’ll never forget the agony of one of our employees, who has graciously joined me here today, when she found herself pregnant with twins and hospitalized for six weeks while she was fed exclusively through an IV. After a premature delivery, she spent many more weeks in the NICU while her babies’ lungs developed. I don’t know how any ethical employer could pile on the stress of worry about losing her job to that terrible situation, but I know they exist.

Some might argue that it would have been better for my business to replace her since she was out for so long. Aside from being cruel, that thinking is focused on the short-term pain, as opposed to the long-term value of employee retention. It costs an average of 150 percent of a mid-level employee’s annual earnings to replace her, which pales next to a mere few weeks of pay.

Working for a business must be a two-way street. If the business doesn’t support employees in their personal lives, how can we expect employees to support the business in its professional life?

Paid family leave also helps shrink the gender gap because it keeps women in the workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, if we employed all of the available women in our workforce, we’d increase the US GDP by 5 percent. That’s no trivial amount when we’re looking at a GDP of more than $17 trillion.

I understand the plight of small businesses. They need support to offset the financial burden that comes with small staffs, low margins and high expectations. This legislation would provide that necessary infrastructure. It would also add Massachusetts to the list of progressive states like California and New Jersey that are amassing the living proof that compassion and business success are mutually inclusive endeavors.