Tuesday, September 17, 2019
INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S VOICE TESTIFIES BEFORE VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY COMMERCE AND LABOR PAID LEAVE WORKGROUP
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Independent Women’s Voice External Relations Director Ashley MacLeay testifies before the Virginia General Assembly Commerce and Labor Paid Leave Workgroup on HB. 2120 and SB. 1639. MacLeay's testimony focused heavily on how HB. 2120 and SB. 1639 programs' unintended consequences will primarily harm women and low-income workers and focused on alternative approaches that encourage private-sector solutions and offer all workers the greatest amount of freedom and flexibility.
“As a new mom, I know the struggles families face when preparing for the birth of a child or caring for a loved one. However, while well-intentioned, SB1639 and HB2120 are misguided and not the right policy solution to provide relief for families who need assistance during the first few weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.” – Ashley MacLeay
Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Time: 10 a.m. ET
Location: House Committee Rooms, Pocahontas Building
Testimony to the Virginia General Assembly
Commerce and Labor Paid Leave Workgroup
External Relations Director, Independent Women's Voice
Good Morning. Today I am speaking on behalf of Independent Women’s Voice, a nonprofit organization now headquartered in Virginia that is dedicated to developing and promoting policies that enhance the freedoms, choices, and opportunities of women and their loved ones.
More importantly, I am also a mom to a newborn, my first child, and just came back from maternity leave last week so I understand the importance of this issue first hand.
As a new mom, I know the struggles families face when preparing for the birth of a child or caring for a loved one. However, while well-intentioned, SB1639 and HB2120 are misguided and not the right policy solution to provide relief for families who need assistance during the first few weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.
First and foremost, 94% of employees in the US already have access to some form of paid-time off. A state-run entitlement program for paid leave may displace the countless number of existing arrangements that so many Virginia women (and men too!) have already negotiated for themselves with their employers.
If these bills are enacted, many employers will not be as willing to offer additional paid leave or other flexible work arrangements for their workers.
Don’t we want companies to find solutions that work best for their employees? Perhaps that means coming back to work in a part-time capacity or working from home. Some employers may already have more generous plans than what is being offered in these bills and what works for one employer may not work for another. Flexible, private arrangements can be customized to better suit the needs and preferences of each industry, employer, woman and family. A government solution, in contrast, is one-size-fits-all.
Existing benefits are not all that workers stand to lose under the proposed bills. Women, in particular, should be concerned about the way family-friendly government policies can backfire on them in the workplace, by encouraging discrimination against us, particularly women of childbearing age. Not only will a state paid family leave program take away our ability to negotiate for paid leave, but it will take away our ability to negotiate it away, if that is our choice. Some women and men, who are childless or older, have less need of family leave and would prefer higher wages or other benefits. Indeed, countries with generous paid family leave programs have wider gender wage gaps, likely because employers limit the hiring and advancement of women in the workplace in response.
IWV also finds that these bills, and others like it, are regressive. While aiming to help those most disadvantaged, they end up disproportionately supporting upper income women and taking away from low income workers. Low income workers often times can’t make ends meet without anything less than their full pay and, as seen in other states like California and New Jersey, these workers don’t end up taking the leave that, in theory, is supposed to help them the most.
Simply put, these bills inhibit out-of-the-box thinking and innovation in the workforce, and the redistributive effect ends up backfiring when put into practice. These bills are the wrong solution for expanding paid family leave in Virginia.
Instead, IWV, has thoughtfully worked to advance several policy solutions geared toward expanding access to paid family leave. We know Americans have many choices to make with their hard earned income and Independent Women's Voice advocates for “Personal Care Accounts” or tax-free savings accounts for times of family and medical leave. Families are encouraged to save pre-tax dollars for a variety of different needs, including health care, childcare, and education. Personal leave from work is also a critical need, and people ought to be able to save tax-free so that they can accrue resources that will sustain them during such absences from work.
These accounts should be designed with the greatest flexibility and employers should be free to contribute to workers’ leave savings accounts. Our sister organization, Independent Women’s Forum, has even explored reforms to tax-free savings accounts that would make them more useful for workers of all income levels, including state matching for those with modest incomes. Charitable organizations, too, should be free to fund leave savings accounts for lower-income workers who might struggle to save on their own.
Another approach is to make it easier for businesses to provide paid family leave by offering tax credits. The beauty of this approach is that it encourages private-sector businesses to work directly with their employees to find individualized solutions and maximize flexibility for their workers depending on industry and job type.
These policy solutions, while not perfect, are better equipped to handle the ever-changing tide of our workplaces and our workforce and stand in stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all, state-run entitlement program SB1639 and HB2120 creates.