There's a reason so many small businesses and nonprofits have signed on to the Paid Family Leave coalition. Strong, fair leave policies benefit workers AND bosses. David Alpert is a local writer who covers urban policy for Greater Greater Washington. He's also a father and an employer. Here's his very personal explanation of why he supports paid family and medical leave for everyone who works or lives in DC.
"If one of [our employees] were to have a baby or get very sick, I'd want them to be able to take time off," David begins. "Unfortunately, we just couldn't realistically afford to do that right now." But taking time off to tend to family or health is not a luxury, he goes on.
The chance to bond with a new life in this world isn't a life experience parents should skip, and the work of caring for this helpless person is not something they can easily delegate. Besides nobody else being able to handle nighttime feeding, it's not that easy to get into a daycare within a few months of birth in many parts of DC.
Sure, many people do without parental leave today, but people should not have to choose between covering basic living expenses and being there for a new child. Nor should they have to neglect an ailing family member.
The existence of a city-wide paid family and medical leave program will make it easier on employers who want their workers to be able to take time for family.
Sure, having the employee out would be difficult, but at least we would not be using up as much as 1/6 of our grant money for it at the same time. If one of our staff were out for four months, it wouldn't be easy and maybe impossible to find a replacement, but it's a better alternative than either of the current choices: Offer leave and maybe lose a lot of grant money, or be a crummy boss.
I don't want to have to put our employees in the position of having to miss a child's infancy or care for a sick parent if they want to keep working here.
Without this bill, though, to be perfectly honest, I'd have little choice right now given our small organization and tight budget. That's why I hope it passes as soon as possible.
Putting on his urban policy hat, David also points out that this will add value to DC's workforce, and increase its appeal as a place to live and work.
DC is not going to compete with other jurisdictions to be the lowest cost, but rather, the highest value. Meanwhile, a lot of low-wage work that doesn't need to be in DC already isn't; a telemarketing call center already isn't in DC, and isn't even in Virginia or Maryland, probably. A store or restaurant has to be where it is for the customers.
Certainly there are employers on the margins where this will make a difference. But we also just can't allow every issue to be a race to the bottom. Everyone deserves to be able to take some time for their health and for their families. A bill that reduces the cost to an employer when this happens is a good idea.
And if you're an employer ready to add your name in support of paid leave for all DCers, join the coalition.