A new report from the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) suggests that a large proportion of American workers lack access to paid leave, including paid sick leave and maternity leave.
Specifically, The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave report finds that only 53% of workers report being able to take some type of paid leave for their own illness, and only 39% report being able to take some type of paid family leave for the birth of a child. However, 77% of workers report having some ability to take unpaid leave, with 73% reporting that they can take unpaid leave if they have an illness, and 60% can do so for the birth of a child.
Instead, the report finds that use of unpaid leave is more common, even among low-wage workers who may be least able to afford such an interruption of income. According to the CEA, in addition to paid leave, workers also use the equivalent of about 5 days of unpaid leave per year.
The report notes that the unmet need for paid leave is particularly acute among the most disadvantaged. For example, College-educated workers are twice as likely to have access to paid leave as workers without a high school degree, at 72% vs. 35%, respectively. Comparing wage levels, meanwhile, 83% of full-time workers in the top income quartile reported access to paid leave, versus 50% of workers in the bottom quartile.
The CEA notes that access to scheduling adjustments – such as leave provisions and alternative work arrangements – also differ across education groups, again with the least educated having the least flexibility. However, the report finds that increased flexibility with leave policies does not have an impact on profitability. Furthermore, the CEA suggests that allowing workers who would have otherwise dropped out of the labor force to instead take some form of short-term leave, businesses could actually benefit from increased recruitment, retention and worker motivation.
For more information on the CEA report, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/leave_report_final.pdf