Carmina K. Hirsch Paid family leave makes business sense
Since 2013 I’ve run a small law practice. I currently employ two employees. Any small business like ours is a joint effort; every single person in the office has a big role. We are all essential. As a small business owner, I know that my career success is inextricably linked to the success of my staff.
This means I want to ensure that my team keeps a good life-work balance. I want my employees to be happy, focused, and engaged with their work so they can be productive, fully present, and do their jobs well.
Life, however, can sometimes be challenging. No matter how much we take care of ourselves, we might face an unexpected health crisis. An elderly parent, spouse, or a sibling might have an accident, or need surgery, or face a health scare. Life itself might make things more complicated; the birth of a new child, although not unexpected, can redefine our need for family time.
When one of my employees faces one of these situations, I want them to be able take care of their loved one. If they are sick, I want them to be able to stay home to recover, not worry about coming to work when they are still ailing. When a close relative needs care, I want to ensure that they can be there for them, not worried senseless at their desk while trying to figure out how to pay for a caregiver. When they have a child, I want them to be able to stay home with their newborn, giving them the care and love they need and deserve, not sleep-deprived at work counting the hours until they will go to day care to pick up their baby. When life happens, and it will happen to all of us sooner or later, I want my valued employees to be cared for.
I support paid family leave because, as a small business owner, it is not just something that makes moral sense to us, but also business sense. It makes sense from a moral perspective because I believe that no one should be forced to choose between taking care of himself or a close relative and making ends meet. When an employee faces a health scare, family emergency, or childbirth, I want them to have the benefit of an income source so they can focus solely on overcoming their challenging life situation without the added stress of a potential financial hardship.
Paid family leave makes sense from a business perspective because for me, as a small business owner, the program provides stability. With paid leave in place, I will not have to worry to figure out if I can afford to continue paying for a missing employee, or for how long, and I won´t be forced to tell anyone that I can´t pay them while they are facing a health crisis. Paid leave would provide me with a predictable, steady backstop that will help keep my business going, without having to worry about insurance paperwork or benefit calculations.
Some critics have raised the idea that with paid leave in place, small businesses will struggle to fill vacancies when employees take time off. In fact, we already struggle now to do that, because if someone is facing a serious illness, they have to take the time off anyway, paid or unpaid. With paid leave, they will be able to do so with a steady replacement income and no out-of-pocket costs to businesses. Our employees will come back when they are healthy and ready, not just when their savings run out.
The program will not represent an additional cost for us business owners. Administering an additional employee-paid deduction is a simple administrative payroll change. The fund is publicly managed, so I don´t need to waste my time comparing plans with my insurance broker. If an employee leaves, the fund follows him/her, and I do not need to deal with paperwork to transition the benefit elsewhere.
We need paid family leave not just because it makes moral sense, but because it will make small businesses like mine stronger. Passing paid family leave in Connecticut is good public policy and the right thing to do.
Carmina K. Hirsch is an attorney based in Shelton.