Paid family leave insurance, a benefit for NY business

For so many people, there’s no happier moment than the day you welcome a child into the world. And one of the scariest moments can be when that child – or a parent, or spouse, or sibling – becomes sick. With so many emotions to deal with, and so many things to deal with at once, the last thing you need to worry about is whether or not you’ll be getting paid.

We know that making sure employees have paid time off makes good business sense – because the less they need to worry, the happier they are, the harder they’ll work, and the longer they’ll stick around. That kind of consistency is great for businesses like ours.

That’s why it’s so important to support New York’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) bill, which would let New Yorkers take up to 12 weeks of paid time off following childbirth or to care for a sick family member.

As a career fashion professional used to long hours and limited leave in the corporate world, I founded Manufacture New York in 2012 to create work-life balance for myself, my young family and our entire team. Now, we benefit from flexible work schedules, paid sick leave and ample paid vacation time without fear of reprisal or losing our place in line. And as a small, growing startup organization, this is just the beginning.

Every business should offer these benefits – we, along with many others (PDF), already do. Some, however, still don’t. They may claim this is just an extra cost, a hit to their bottom line, but that’s a short-sighted approach that actually costs money in the long run. In our highly connected economy, that can end up affecting a lot more than just one business.

PFLI would change that, at least in New York, by ensuring that everyone would have up to 12 weeks following childbirth, to care for an ill family member, or to address issues stemming from a family member’s military service. The cost? Employee contributions of 63 cents a week when the program is fully implemented – that’s $32.76 a year. Not exactly a major expense. And the whole thing would be run using the existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) infrastructure, so there’s no need for a massive expansion of government.

We offer paid leave because it’s good for our business, and that’s not going to change. Still, it’s unfair to companies that do offer the benefit if the playing field remains uneven, with some companies putting short-term gain over long-term growth. And since giving employees paid time off is actually good for the bottom line, it doesn’t make sense to let this continue. The entire state’s economy can benefit if we do this, but the fact that we aren’t is itself a drag on our economy.

Anyone who runs a business knows that losing good employees costs money. Just hiring and training a replacement can cost thousands; there are a lot of other ways losing an employee can hurt you, not all of them easily visible on a balance sheet. Not offering benefits like paid leave could make employees start looking for a new job with a company that offers them. And when a company loses money because of bad leave policies, that can affect other companies they do business with – spending more on a new hire means less to spend on other products and services.

We’re working with groups like the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) to promote this legislation because we know how important this is to businesses like ours. Our employees make it possible for us to succeed, and with this benefit, we can help take care of them when they welcome a new bundle of joy or deal with a serious illness. As it turns out, the entire economy benefits too. That’s why we need the state legislature to pass PFLI.

Bland, is founder and CEO of Manufacture New York, a Brooklyn-based fashion design and production incubator for independent designers.

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