November 2nd, 2015

As He Walks in the Shoes of Women and Working Families, Sestak Calls For Program to Benefit Workers and Businesses

Media, Pa. – Former Admiral and Congressman Joe Sestak today laid out his support for paid family leave for new mothers, which will strengthen America’s families and workforce without harming businesses, in some cases even improving profitability, all without adding to our nation’s debt.

“In talking with the Pennsylvanians I have met while walking in their shoes to earn their trust, I have seen the vital need for paid family leave for parents, children, and the economy.” Admiral Sestak said. “This program will help businesses by creating more loyal employees while minimizing retraining costs and even benefiting taxpayers by reducing the number of women relying on public assistance following childbirth, as seen in the success of the states that have implemented this program.”

Three states – New Jersey, Rhode Island and California – offer paid leave to care for a new child or seriously ill family member and the results unanimously show positive impacts for both workers and businesses. This is particularly important for the overall productivity of our nation, as women are expected to comprise the majority of new workers through 2018.1

Pennsylvania’s neighbor New Jersey has experienced great success under its paid family leave program, with 77 percent of businesses surveyed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research saying the program had no impact on profitability, and another 11 percent reporting a positive impact on profitability. No business reported any abuse of the program.2

According to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, over 70 percent of businesses were able to avoid a costly hiring process by temporarily reassigning work from an employee taking family leave to other workers. Over half of New Jersey businesses saw no impact on employee productivity, and nearly 70 percent reported no impact on profitability.3

Californian businesses have also benefitted from its paid family leave program through an increased employee retention rate, cutting costs by reducing the need to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of replacing workers.4

“Studies of the three states that offer paid family leave confirm the numerous benefits of this program,” Sestak said. “Compared to women who can’t take paid leave, women who can are more likely to still be employed one year after giving birth,5 less likely to require public assistance or food stamps,6 and more likely to see a wage increase the following year.”7

“A paid family leave program will help taxpayers by reducing the amount of money going toward food stamps and public assistance, while also helping women navigate a troubled economy that still suffers from a gender pay gap,” Sestak said.

Sestak supports a program that would apply equally to new mothers and fathers, new births and adoptions, opposite- and same-sex couples, and individuals caring for seriously ill family members. By creating such a program at the federal level, America would cease to be the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee paid family leave.8

One current legislative proposal, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2015, seeks to follow a model similar to the paid family leave program used by New Jersey to capitalize on these widely recognized benefits.

Much like the New Jersey program, the FAMILY Act would provide eligible workers 66 percent of their average monthly wages up to a capped amount, and would be funded by employee and employer contributions scaled to an employee’s salary. Such a payment model would not impact the nation’s debt, and would cost the average worker only an estimated $1.50 per week.9

“I urge Congress to seriously consider and debate the models offered by New Jersey, California and Rhode Island, beginning with a non-partisan evaluation of the FAMILY Act by the Congressional Budget Office,” Sestak said. “The societal and economic benefits of such a program are clear, and it is past time for our nation to extend this nearly universal benefit to our workers.”

Sestak’s support of a paid family leave program is one of the many steps he has taken to support American women. As a Congressman, he co-sponsored two pieces of equal pay legislation – the Paycheck Fairness Act as well as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – and voted to provide free preventive screenings and increased medical services to women as part of the Affordable Care Act. Sestak also voted annually to fund programs to protect women from domestic violence and co-sponsored the International Violence Against Women Act.

He also favors increased support for individuals who need to care for their family members, and discusses the need for improved tax credits and deductions for people caring for elderly relatives in his policy book “Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American Dream.”