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Finding an Alternative to Paid Family Leave

July 24, 2018 in Economics

By Vanessa Brown Calder

Vanessa Brown Calder

Earlier this week, a Senate subcommittee held a hearing on
government-supported paid family leave, with Sens. Joni Ernst, Iowa
Republican, and Kirsten Gillibrand New York Democrat, both
testifying in favor of providing paid family leave through the
federal entitlement system. Mrs. Ernst especially touted her
commitment to supporting working families, and mentioned her
collaborative efforts working with Senate conservatives like Marco
Rubio on the current paid family leave bill.

Mrs. Ernst’s desire to improve working families’
lives is understandable, but misdirected. Like many conservative
members of Congress, Mrs. Ernst has allowed Democrats to set the
policy agenda, rather than thinking creatively about how to apply
her own conservative principles to improving working parents’
lives.

There are better ways than government-supported paid family
leave to support working families, and they don’t cost
money.

Policymakers should
refocus their sights on reforms that improve worker-choice without
increasing government dependence.

The first is reducing labor regulation that hampers flexible
working arrangements. In a poll conducted by the Rockefeller
Foundation which asked what “would need to change in order
for working parents to evenly balance their job or business, their
marriage, and their children?” the answer “more
flexible work hours/schedules” won by a mile compared to
“more paid time off” and other options.

It wasn’t even close: 51 percent of respondents selected
workplace flexibility as the problem, which is consistent with
sociological research which found nearly 9 of 10
“opt-out” moms left work due to limited workplace
flexibility.

Flexible working arrangements would occur naturally, but
regulation gets in the way. As an example, the Fair Labor Standards
act doesn’t allow some workers to bank overtime as future
time off. Interestingly, government and union workers are allowed
to do this while private-sector workers are not.

Independent contractors are allowed to set their own schedules
and be their own boss, but legislative and judicial efforts are
curtailing this flexibility and seem intent on forever shackling
workers to an outdated 1930s model of work.

Advocates that seek to curtail independent contractor status
cite protecting worker interests as their goal. But according to a
2018 Bureau of Labor and Statistics survey, workers don’t
want to be protected: “fewer than 1 in 10 independent
contractors would prefer a traditional work arrangement.”

Since labor regulations are often set at the state level, there
are many reforms that would improve flexibility there, as well. For
example, shift-work laws require employees/employers to set
schedules weeks in advance of working, and this is likely a burden
to working parents whose schedules are constantly in flux.

Lunch-break laws like the one in California penalize employers
for allowing employees to take lunch breaks more than an hour long.
But working mothers often need …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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