3 Hidden Costs of NOT Having Paid Family Leave (February 17, 2015)

By Dory Devlin, Fortune

The price of not having a paid parental leave policy is becoming more clear—and quantifiable. Here are three major costs that employees — and taxpayers — face.

Much of the discussion about President Obama’s proposal for paid family leave focuses on the cost to employers and taxpayers. But what are the economic costs of not providing paid leave?

The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for workers who are new parents. (The federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives workers the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.) But the price of not having a paid parental leave policy is becoming more clear—and quantifiable—thanks in part to California and New Jersey’s state paid-leave programs and a slew of studies conducted over the past ten years.

Not only does research show that mothers are more likely to leave jobs to care for family. There’s evidence that it has a ripple effect, with more people going on public assistance and employers having higher turnover.

In a December Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times/CBS News poll of unemployed Americans, 61 percent of women cited “family responsibilities” as a reason for not working. Just 37 percent of men said that.

“There are enormous costs to whole families—women in particular—to children, to the economy more generally, and to employers for not having paid family leave,” said Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who has studied and advocated for paid leave policy.

Here are some of the major costs of not having paid leave.

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