March 10, 2021
Washington D.C. – Today, 298 U.S. business and management school faculty members from 139 institutions in 41 states and the District of Columbia are calling on the Biden administration and members of Congress to make the establishment of a national paid family and medical leave program a top economic recovery priority. The social and economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for a national paid leave program more urgent than ever.
The 298 undersigned business and management experts, including a diverse range of faculty members affiliated with every top business school in the United States, agree 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
The letter urges the Biden administration and Congress to include a national paid leave policy, such as The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) which would guarantee all workers access to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a serious health or family caregiving issue, in any future legislation intended to address the country’s lacking care, workforce, and economic infrastructure. 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.
“As we rebuild in the pandemic’s wake, 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, professor emeritus, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Let us be a leader among nations, and not a laggard, in giving all workers and businesses access to paid leave. Now is the time!”
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 have higher rates of caregiving responsibilities on average. The pandemic has shown how disastrous the country’s lack of care infrastructure has been for employment, particularly for women. An estimated 5.3 million women lost jobs in the pandemic through January 2021, including 2.3 million who left the workforce entirely, setting women’s employment levels back by more than three decades.
"I’m very passionate about any efforts that support an inclusive economy— one that is free of discrimination, inclusive of the excluded, and offers opportunities for all.” said Raj Echambadi, Dunton Family Dean, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University. “Beyond being a moral imperative, federally-supported paid family and medical leave is likely to increase labor force participation and enhance our economic strength, because it would help level the playing field for all working families. We must ensure that the American Dream is attainable for all who strive for it."
"Our current system presents workers with an impossible choice: care for loved ones or risk your job,” said Lauren Rivera, professor of management & organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. “Paid federal leave helps everyone. It helps keep women, who shoulder the bulk of childcare and eldercare nationally, in the workforce. It keeps families out of poverty. It improves the mental and physical health of workers and their children. By shifting the cost of leave to the federal government, it saves employers money. It is a crucial first step towards eroding our national myth that work and family are incompatible."
In nearly six years since a similar 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; six 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 momentum on paid leave at federal, state and private sector levels has been tremendous,” said Vicki Shabo, senior fellow for paid leave policy and strategy at New America’s Better Life Lab and a coordinator of the letter. “A growing body of research shows that paid leave public policies address many of the key challenges facing the country today—helping to keep women and all family caregivers caregivers attached to the workforce, boosting workers’ earnings and supporting families’ well-being, and supporting small businesses. These are economic imperatives for pandemic recovery and beyond.”
Congress enacted a limited, temporary emergency paid leave policy that was in effect from April through December of last year. To date, however, the federal government has not moved to implement a national permanent paid family and medical leave policy. During the presidential campaign, President Biden included paid leave in his women’s and caregiving agendas and identified the “care economy” as a key pillar of economic recovery. Members of both parties in Congress have evaluated the issue in recent years. The undersigned business and management faculty members urge swift evidence-based action to enact a permanent national paid leave program.