More than 350 Business and Management Experts Tell Federal Lawmakers: Pass Paid Leave as Part of the Build Back Better Agenda

Press Release
Oct. 4, 2021

Washington D.C. – Today, as Congress continues to negotiate the a budget reconciliation bill that contains care economy, jobs and climate priorities, more than 350 U.S. business and management school faculty members from more than 160 institutions in 41 states, including every top-ranked school in the country, are calling on the Biden-Harris administration and members of Congress to establish a comprehensive, permanent national paid family and medical leave program as a top economic priority in the Build Back Better agenda.

Many of these same professors have called on Congress before, first in 2015 and then in the spring of this year, and felt compelled to do so again—joined by more of their colleagues across the country—at this critical juncture in the legislative process. The 351 signatories to the letter argue that paid leave is an:

  • Economic necessity for workers and their families
  • A gender- and racial-equity imperative for businesses and an inclusive economy
  • Essential workplace retention policy for businesses
  • Means for stimulating the country’s economic growth and competitiveness 

In their letter, the business and management experts ask policymakers to ensure the entire U.S. workforce has access to paid family and medical leave on a permanent and sustained basis, allowing the country to rebuild from COVID-19 and address future health and care challenges. 

“Paid family and medical leave is an economic necessity for working families that stimulates growth, strengthens our competitiveness, promotes gender equity, and reduces racial disparities,” said Stewart D. Friedman, Emeritus Professor of Management Practice at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

In addition to the economic recovery and rebuilding benefits, a national paid leave program would create greater equity for women and people of color across the workforce, who are typically more likely to shoulder caregiving responsibilities. “Providing people with no compensation when they are unable to work due to the need to care for themselves or others, is not a policy. It is a travesty,” said Nicole C. Jones Young, a professor at Franklin Marshall college.

“Paid family and medical leave is not a benefit or a “nice to have” policy—it is a national economic and social imperative. It is time for the U.S. to be a 21st century world leader in workforce policy by creating policy that values caregiving as much as corporate profits and GDP,” said David Smith, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business.

In nearly six years since a first letter, signed by more than 200 business and management faculty members, was sent to the Obama administration and Congress, the federal government instituted 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers; nine states and the District of Columbia have passed paid leave legislation; academic and business trade literature have shown the value of paid leave to employers; and corporations, trade associations, small businesses, and business leaders have urged congressional action

“The country is at a critical inflection point. Paid leave helps keep people attached to jobs, safeguards their income, facilitates caregiving, and aids the economy,” said Vicki Shabo, senior fellow for paid leave policy and strategy at New America’s Better Life Lab and a coordinator of the letter. “Congress must act now to ensure a comprehensive national paid leave plan is part of the Build Back Better bill even if there are continued pressures to trim the size of the bill. Care can’t wait.”  

The U.S. House Ways & Means and Rules Committees approved a 12-week national paid family and medical leave program last month as part of the Build Back Better Act, the budget reconciliation bill that contains priorities included in the Biden-Harris American Families Plan, which itself included a paid family and medical leave program. These proposals build on state paid family and medical leave programs, international experience and prior federal legislative proposals.