Colorado legislators have just decided not to consider a bill, called the FAMLI Act, which would have created a new state program, funded by mandatory employee contributions, to pay workers during 12 weeks of family or medical leave.
This state-level bill very closely resembles the FAMILY Act, a bill in the U.S. Senate.
Debates over paid family leave are often framed this way: Women and families are depicted on one side, in favor of greater government supports, and business interests are on the other, unwilling to bear the associated costs.
In reality, working women should be the first to oppose programs like the Colorado FAMLI Act. It may sound counter-intuitive, but one-size-fits-all family-friendly government programs sadly often backfire on workers, especially women. We should celebrate that Colorado has decided against this bad idea.
In countries with paid-leave mandates, women are less likely to advance to managerial positions and the gender pay gap is greater. This policy that is intended to help families (especially women) unfortunately hurts them.
There are better ways to address the issue of paid family leave. The private sector is already acting, even without government intervention: Starbucks, Walmart, Ikea, Netflix, Spotify, and American Express have all made headlines for expanding their paid leave programs. These companies know that competitive benefits attract and retain workers. And employers have the resources to offer such benefits when the economy is vibrant and growing.
We could also reform Social Security to allow workers the option to take parental benefits after the birth of a baby in exchange for delaying their retirement benefits later in life. In contrast to the FAMLI Act, this approach would be completely voluntary, require no new taxes and give workers control over benefits they’ve already earned.
We all want working parents to have greater opportunities to climb the economic ladder and spend critical time with their families. In order to maximize these opportunities and allow for the greatest degree of freedom, government should not impose a one-size-fits-all program, like the FAMLI Act, on this very personal issue.
Colorado’s legislators did the right thing by letting this bad bill die.