December 12, 2019

Paid Family Leave: The Latest Camel’s Nose?

The news stories are here, there and everywhere. Federal civilian workers may soon be receiving paid family leave.  My initial question was, “At what cost(s)?”  I ask the question not because I think paid leave is good, bad, right or wrong. I just want the full picture. As a taxpayer, I’ll be paying for it. So, I’d like to understand the bigger picture.

What’s the camel’s nose (read to the end)? Incremental legislation. Today, it is about paid family leave for federal workers. Already underway are proposals to require private sector employers to offer paid family leave for their employees. I repeat, “At what cost?” I found a few articles that provided me with some insight. You can learn more about this research here and here.  Some results I found interesting include:

  • Women may be adversely impacted. In three states that have mandated maternity leave benefits, women’s wages declined.
  • Childless couples may be adversely impacted. Paid family leave mandates reduce the wages of employees without children where they are subjected to an employee payroll tax.
  • Men may be adversely impacted. Research shows women take more paid family leave than men and men more more likely to be childless than women.
  • Lower wage workers may be adversely impacted. Higher income women take paid family leave more than lower income women.
  • All employees’ wages may decrease. A federal, paid family leave law for private sector employers may cost employees $1,300 to $2,000 more in taxes per year.

This is all to say, let’s think through all the implications before we advocate in favor of or opposition to the various proposals.  Let’s look before we leap.

Oh, and the camel’s nose? This reference is reportedly from an Arabic fable. The moral is basically, “Beware the camel’s nose in your tent, for the body is soon to follow.”  What seems like a small, innocuous thing today may turn into a big, hairy beast tomorrow.