Shifting The Debate On Paid Family Leave from ‘Whether’ To ‘How’ (July 19, 2017)

By: Aparna Mathur, AEI

It is heartening to see more AEI colleagues getting on board with the idea of paid parental leave. As the recently released AEI-Brookings Paid Family Leave Report highlights, there are significant economic and health benefits to families and the larger economy from allowing families paid time off after the birth of a child. So it gave me great pleasure to read the title of Michael Strain’s recent Bloomberg View column, “Parental Leave is great. Just don’t mandate it.”

I agree. Parental leave is needed, but a mandate on businesses could have unintended consequences, especially for the people we are trying to help. But this is not 1993. We are not debating whether a mandate on businesses should be passed so that they can provide parental leave, paid or unpaid. The Family and Medical Leave Act, the original unpaid leave mandate, has been in force for more than twenty years. I can understand the anxiety that businesses might have faced about how they would deal with the FMLA all those years ago. But as far as we know, no one is talking about repealing the FMLA or even expanding it beyond 12 weeks. Our working group, for instance, came out strongly against a mandated, privately provided paid leave benefit as well.

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