Paid Leave

Stossel: The Paid Leave Fairy Tale

Why mandated paid family leave is bad for business and bad for most women.

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Most 2020 presidential candidates support government-mandated paid family leave. On the surface, that sounds like a good policy. Supporters are quick to point out that only the U.S. and Papua New Guinea don't require businesses to provide time off with compensation for new parents.

Patrice Lee Onwuka, a senior policy analyst at Independent Women's Forum, says this argument is "disingenuous."

As she told John Stossel, most full-time American workers already receive paid leave.

"About 17 percent of workers have paid parental leave…but you jump to 60, 70, 80 percent when you consider people have sick time off, overtime, or all-encompassing personal time."

These benefits are voluntarily provided even to lower-level employees.

"Chipotle workers, CVS workers, [and] Walmart workers," says Onwuka.

"Why would CVS and Walmart provide this voluntarily?" Stossel asks.

"For an employer to attract…good talent or retain their talent, they need to offer benefits that really resonate with workers,"Onwuka explains. "Paid maternity and paternity leave is one of those benefits."

"Politicians are so arrogant, Stossel said, "that they now tell people that mandating leave for all employees will be 'good for business.' Somehow they don't know that business knows better what's good for business."

In truth, mandated leave turns out to be not only bad for business but bad for most women.

"If we look at how the rest of the world has provided very generous, mandated paid leave plans," Onwuka says, "we see that it actually has a negative impact on women."

Why would that be? Because mandatory leave makes companies fearful of hiring young women. "If an employer has a young woman in front of him of childbearing age," says Onwuka, "he's thinking, 'OK, I have to provide paid time off. I have a potential other employee who's a male."

Comparing Europe to America, Onwuka explains, "American women are twice as likely to be in senior level positions, managerial positions, then women in Europe….It's very much tied to these mandates around paid leave and paid time off."

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  1. Paid leave being the difference between a job or not only makes sense if you expect (lacking paid leave) a woman to be back at the job within days of giving birth.

    That said, yes, the most compensated employees already get this. These laws and regulations aren’t for them. They’re for the people at the bottom. The ones where employers don’t have to worry about hiring and retention, because low-skilled workers are interchangeable enough.

    Pointing at middle-class folks to explain why we don’t need regulations that primarily benefit lower-class folks is to be deliberately obtuse.

    1. Seems like in low-skill jobs the incentive against hiring young women would be even greater. In a professional position, the woman might bring some skill or knowledge that is valuable enough to outweigh the costs of having an employee on leave. In a low skill job, that’s not going to be much of a factor.

    2. Minimum wage laws are also for the people at the bottom. Well-intentioned, but often with the effect of pricing low-skilled workers out of the job market.

      It’s very debatable that increased leave mandates would result in a net benefit to lower-class folks.

    3. Have you been in a McDonalds since Trump was elected? Even the lowest skill jobs benefit (to the bottom line for the employer) from experience and increased training opportunities, and humans are terrible at identifying candidates that will work out in any job. There’s no such thing as jobs where the employer can ignore hiring and retention, Mr. bougie-trousers.

    4. You somehow missed the examples in the article about all the companies already voluntarily offering this benefit to their low-skilled employees?

    5. “…These laws and regulations aren’t for them. They’re for the people at the bottom. The ones where employers don’t have to worry about hiring and retention, because low-skilled workers are interchangeable enough….”

      So, just like min-wage, you prefer the unskilled to be without work?
      Or are you so stupid you do not realize that is the result?

      1. Yep. What do you call an applicant that isn’t worth the cost of wages and benefits? Unemployed.

  2. Good job Stossel.

    1. Anyone else catch that stat about women in the USA are more than twice as likely to be in manager positions than women in Europe?

      1. Because I’m naturally skeptical of any numbers I see anywhere, I wish they had broken down how a “manager” level job was defined.

        I can certainly believe that number, as it sounds plausible, but I’m so suspicious of data manipulation that I wonder if “manager level” means something different in some EU countries than it does for us. Or if their overall percentage of manager/executive employees is lower regardless of gender.

        I wish we lived in a world where weaselly data manipulation didn’t automatically cause me to think along those lines.

        1. I agree no thinking person would take that statistic at face value without more detail.
          I don’t know if this explains the difference, but there was/is a big benefit to classify someone as a “manager” in the US. Until a few years ago, if you could shoehorn someone into a management position, you don’t have to pay overtime, so there are a lot of low-paid low-level “managers” in US retail and restaurants. Just anecdotally, but I would guess 75%+ of bottom-level managers in retail are women. I suspect overtime rules have been different in most of Europe.
          If you remember, a few years ago there was a fight when the Obama administration changed some definitions so anyone (including managers) making under ~$47K/year are eligible for overtime; it would be informative to see the US statistics over time since that change.

          1. Yeah, now that I think about it: instead of just going off something vague like job titles, which can mean anything, perhaps some comparisons of annual earnings would make it more objective.

            And again, there’s going to be something of a translation necessary, where they’d need to assign monetary value to whatever benefits and perks are associated with a job, but it’s much better than using hazy definitions that might suit your purpose. That’s the entire reason currency exists, so we have some consensus baseline for comparing relative values of goods, labor, and services.

  3. Agree completely that mandated leave – paid or unpaid – is just simply a dumb thing for govt to get involved in.

    But for Patrice Onwuka to assert that Americans already have sufficient paid leave cuz ‘markets’ is simply crap. I’ve consulted on HR stuff for companies and increasing the ACTUAL paid time off for workers (esp lower level) is hands down the most profitable thing that companies can do to increase productivity and recruit at that level.

    Instead, most American companies simply dick their workforce around re paid time off. To lower level, offering nominal amounts only after many years of service which they won’t get to anymore. Like the horse with the water bottle in the exile scene of Mad Max Thunderdome. To mid/higher level, pressuring employees not to take what they accrue – or trying to create artificial ‘our workplace is really fun’ crap like ‘bring your poodle to work’ or ‘ooh big beanbag chairs and pingpong tables’.

    It’s like not ONE American executive has read why Henry Ford (that noted commie) instituted what we now know as ‘the weekend’. Everything he said in 1926 still applies – leisure time is not a class privilege and it is not ‘lost time’ and it still drives many consumption patterns in a ‘mass production’ society.

    Again – mandates are a dumb way to achieve it. But let’s not pretend that American business today is anything but stupid as fuck when it comes to this issue.

    1. I look forward to applying for a position at the company you start.

      1. You have a long wait. He clearly will use contract workers in all positions.

        1. I use contract workers, where necessary. Nothing wrong with that. But basing a company’s HR infrastructure on contractors wouldn’t work for me. Or I would do it.

    2. ” I’ve consulted on HR stuff for companies and increasing the ACTUAL paid time off for workers (esp lower level) is hands down the most profitable thing that companies can do to increase productivity and recruit at that level.

      Instead, most American companies simply dick their workforce around re paid time off.”

      Half the time, businesses care so much about profits that they screw over their employees. And the other half, they screw over their employees even when it costs them money to do so.

      1. Wow, sounds like you should start a company and take advantage of all that money they are throwing away to undercut them.

        1. Be careful about what you are really implying.

          Because if you are asserting that competitive markets simply can’t deliver paid-time-off, then you are implicitly advocating that that be MANDATED. Because a mandate will impose that on everyone and thus not change the competitive field at all. And since every other significant country (x Japan, China, Mexico) also mandates more paid leave than the average American even gets, it wouldn’t even change intl competitiveness. And those three exceptions wouldn’t matter either. Japan still pretty much does ‘lifetime employment’ and so their old-fashioned PTO depends on length-of-service still applies. Mexico only mandates less than our average cuz we mandate nothing. Once we mandate, they will jack up their mandates manana (and that manana will be the first one history to actually happen tomorrow). And China will start mandating the second they actually get serious about workplace suicides and/or changing their economy from export-driven to consumption-driven.

          Because the notion that Type A’s (who kinda pride themselves on never taking vacations) will determine that Type B’s never get vacations either (or more accurately they’ll get the same amount of vacation time that Type A’s don’t take when they do get it) simply because Type A’s control the workplace – well that won’t happen. Cuz Type B’s will achieve that goal thru politics instead.

          1. “…Because if you are asserting that competitive markets simply can’t deliver paid-time-off, then you are implicitly advocating that that be MANDATED….”

            You’re justly famous for being a blithering idiot, but you’re raising the bar here.

          2. I’m implying that the assertion that ‘And the other half, they screw over their employees even when it costs them money to do so’ is bogus.

      2. “Half the time, businesses care so much about profits that they screw over their employees. And the other half, they screw over their employees even when it costs them money to do so.”
        Quit.
        And quit bullshitting.

    3. Yeah, it seems as if their ideas about PTO are set in concrete. As I am getting older, I’ve told my boss that when the time comes to give me a raise he can give me more PTO instead since I am placing increasing value on time over money. But naturally the bureaucrats on the top floor won’t let him do that.

      1. And yet, that should be an easy sell; there are no payroll taxes on additional time off compared to additional wages.

        1. Except for the part of where your job isn’t getting done while you are gone.

          1. EES is writing comments in the middle of the work day.

            I don’t think EES getting the job done is a big concern to his employers. 🙂

        2. It isn’t an easy sell. The most profitable incentive plans I ever put in place were ones that paid off in time off rather than in cash. The opportunity to imagine what to do with an extra week or two for a family vacation or to do hobbies or just to have the time off completely transformed mindsets at work. And delivered on increased profits and margins every time – easily.

          But in every case, it took a manager who already ‘got it’. To your standard Type A (live to work) manager – which is most managers precisely because they are ambitious and competitive (in sports sense not economic sense) and derive their identity from work, I might as well have been proposing something in Martian.

          Which is ultimately where I attributed the basic difference. The ‘live to work’ and ‘work to live’ personalities are simply different PEOPLE – not traits or moods within the same person. The former can’t really tolerate the latter’s existence at work and wants to change their personality more than their behavior/output. And that can’t happen.

          1. JFree
            June.4.2019 at 4:07 pm
            “It isn’t an easy sell. The most profitable incentive plans I ever put in place were ones that paid off in time off rather than in cash….”

            To anyone running a business or managing same, this tells you that JFree is:
            1) A liar about ever dealing with business issues, or
            2) At best, was involved in some hippy non-profit.
            Put another way from those of us who have run businesses:
            bull
            .
            .
            .
            shit.

    4. Henry Ford is praised by name in Mein Kampf, and was given a highfalutin’ National Socialist medal for some reason they deemed worthwhile. Just because National and International Socialists are both socialists does not mean they are exactly the same. The bloodiest wars are fought between peoples who believe almost the same things. Take the GOP and Dems, f’rinstance…

      1. You do know that Ford was extensively on record as a massive anti-Semite, right?

  4. Well, I lived and worked in Europe (UK), and I can tell you that the statement about women being “twice as likely” to be in senior level positions, managerial positions, then women in Europe (in respect of the UK at least) is certainly suspect. There were plenty of women of childbearing age working as managers, partners, CEOs and everything in between, than what that statement implies. But who knows, maybe it’s totally different in Germany and France, which weighs the stats in a certain direction?

    But I absolutely loved the mandated 4 weeks holiday for all employees. PTO is vital to my mental health and happiness. American work culture clearly does not agree my views on that. However, it would have been very fair to say that salaries seem to be lower overall in Europe due to government-mandated leave policies, because that leave is counted as part of your remuneration package. But that’s true here in America as well. On balance, in my opinion, we do not treat our workers in America very well at all — it really doesn’t matter whether you are low-skilled or a corporate manager, male or female. It’s part of our work culture I suppose.

    1. France and Germany also have a critical shortage of jobs for young workers and a high volume of unemployment. That is why there are so many European ex-pats in America. Employment in Europe is so expensive that demand for new employees is depressed.

      It doesn’t matter what the minimums for paid time off are if you can’t get a job in the first place.

      1. Oh bullshit. German unemployment is 3.2% and their labor force participation rate is now roughly the same as ours (62.8% v 61.5%)

        France is different – a long dirigiste history re unemployment and constipated labor markets – but not when it comes to women managers where they and New Zealand are the countries most comparable to the US.

        And actually quite a few countries have far MORE women in mgmt positions than the US does – dependent almost entirely on whether they have industries that attract women and/or attitudes towards education NOT on family leave policy. eg tourism heavy countries have tons more women in those positions cuz women are better at tourism type stuff. The notion that a company will hire a man just because a woman gives birth is totally ludicrous. That dynamic would only apply in industries where men already have an advantage and that birth time off just serves as an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway.

        1. “…The notion that a company will hire a man just because a woman gives birth is totally ludicrous…”

          Of course not! Why would any company hire an employee who doesn’t require pay for the time s/he’s not working over one who does?
          What a fucking lefty ignoramus.

          1. Because you moron – the nanosecond an employer does that, they will overnight become the plague for EVERY potential female employee. Which means they will lose 50% of their workforce. And there are VERY few industries – today – where a company could lose half its potential pool of talent and still be competitive. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago but not now.

            Of course you don’t realize that because you apparently don’t know shit about how actual companies in actual markets work. You seem to think it all works by magic and by picking the correct ideological answers. You are without question the stupidest dog on the interwebs.

            1. Oh, goody! One more JFree igno-spout to take apart!

              JFree
              June.4.2019 at 11:33 pm
              “Because you moron – the nanosecond an employer does that, they will overnight become the plague for EVERY potential female employee. Which means they will lose 50% of their workforce. And there are VERY few industries – today – where a company could lose half its potential pool of talent and still be competitive. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago but not now.”
              Gee, nice hypothetical, but as a fucking lefty ignoramus, you sort of forgot how your fantasy comes true. Why am I not surprised?

              “Of course you don’t realize that because you apparently don’t know shit about how actual companies in actual markets work. You seem to think it all works by magic and by picking the correct ideological answers. You are without question the stupidest dog on the interwebs.”
              Since you are completely ignorant of my business history, I’ll assume your assumptions are a result of simple stupidity (to say the least) and leave it at that.
              Suffice to say, you set a bar as ‘the stupidest dog on the interwebs’ that is beyond my ability to match.
              Fuck off and die, you pathetic piece of shit. And do so where the smell won’t bother the rest of us.

            2. Actually genius, unless you’re in a very limited geographic area where you have to do all your hiring, it wouldn’t be that hard at all to hire entirely men and women who have already had children or are too old to likely ever have any. OR at least slant things so heavily that the few you hire don’t make much difference.

              Not EVERY company could effectively do this, but any given company could.

    2. “But I absolutely loved the mandated 4 weeks holiday for all employees.”
      Yeah, Euro-lefties are all for free-shit! Except it ain’t free.

    3. Jalene, American employees are treated poorly until you consider… Basically everything.

      Bottom line is we work harder, and make a buttload more money. Income in the USA is almost double the EU average, and about 50% higher than most of the better large EU nations like Germany, France, etc.

      Americans could decide to slack off and work far fewer hours than Europeans, and we’d still be making more money. But we choose to hustle more. Bear in mind Americans are free to do either, whereas in Europe it is essentially mandated in some countries how much you can work.

  5. ANOTHER excellent article by Stossel?! Why is Reason alluva sudden pandering to card-carryin libertarians when there are so many bigoted hateful republicans and whack-job energy-banning democrats to try to please instead? Something is not right here…

  6. “Why would that be? Because mandatory leave makes companies fearful of hiring young women. “If an employer has a young woman in front of him of childbearing age,” says Onwuka, “he’s thinking, ‘OK, I have to provide paid time off. I have a potential other employee who’s a male.””

    Why, how could anyone foresee such a result?

  7. If it was legal, one would basically be WAY better off at this point with all the legal shit that currently exists or will exist in the future to basically hire only straight white and Asian men. Everybody else brings a host of potential problems.

    Of course that’s illegal, because progs don’t want wreckers using their brains to avoid all the problems they created… But just sayin’.

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