This just in! Eileen Applebaum from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Ruth Milkman have released findings from their latest report, Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California. In addition to new data and analysis on experiences with California's unique Paid Family Leave program, Applebaum and Milkman also offer a handy timeline of leave policymaking at the state and federal level as well as data on access to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For instance, did you know that FMLA’s coverage is limited to only about half of all workers, and less than a fifth of all new mothers?
According to Applebaum and Milkman, California’s passage of the nation’s first comprehensive Paid Family Leave
(PFL) program on September 23, 2002 was a historic breakthrough. In their recently released report, they present findings from surveys they conducted in 2009 and 2010 of 253 employers and 500 individuals about their experiences with the California PFL program and concludes with policy recommendations. What they found was a successful program whose major remaining obstacle was getting the program information to workers who need it most.
Nearly all employer respondents (98.6%) reported that California’s Paid Family Leave program had no noticeable effect or a positive effect on employee morale. Furthermore, 82% of all respondents said that leave had a positive effect on their ability to care for a new child. However, the study found clear differences in the demographic characteristics of employees who were aware of the Paid Family Leave. For example, women were much more likely to be aware of the program than men (56% versus 39%). Latino, immigrant, and low-income workers were also less likely to be aware of California’s program. Among the respondents who were aware of PFL but chose not to take advantage of the program, approximately one-third said they would not have received enough money, another third expressed fear that their employer would be unhappy, and just under a third said they worried it would hurt their opportunities for advancement.
The authors conclude that California’s Paid Family Leave program has “more than proven its worth.” Predictions of negative impacts have not come to fruition. Indeed, the program has had a positive impact on economic, social, and health outcomes for workers and their families. The biggest single problem is the limited public awareness of the program. To improve the impact of this path breaking program, Applebaum and Milkman recommend extending outreach, increasing the level of wage replacement, extend job protection to all users of the program, and extend the program to cover all California public employees.