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Editor at Large

Paid family leave could be another whammy for businesses

New rules on overtime pay.

A potential increase in the minimum wage.

And now the latest potential setback for businesses in Pennsylvania: There’s a movement in the state toward paying employees when they are out on family leave.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is behind the push, as the state’s Department of Labor & Industry is launching a study of paid family leave models and programs.

Nowhere in the announcement about the study is there anything about who is going to pay for this new benefit. (The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, established in 1993, calls for unpaid leave for employees because of medical and family reasons.)

What is ominous, though, is this statement provided by L&I in its announcement of the study: “L&I was awarded this grant … after proposing to work with the Wolf administration and policy, legal and community-based organizations, to develop research and analysis on how paid family leave programs can be implemented in Pennsylvania.”

Uh … what about talking to businesses about how it might work – or even if businesses support the idea?

When we contacted L&I about input from businesses, this was its response, through a spokesperson:

“Our response to your earlier questions about whether input will be sought from businesses regarding the paid family leave study is, absolutely. Part of the study and analysis will include employer focus groups to determine what paid leave time they are currently providing and the benefits of doing so.”

If you read between the lines, it appears the Wolf administration already has its mind made up – it wants paid family leave. Just look at how it says it wants to learn about the "benefits" of family paid leave. Is anyone going to ask about the negative consequences of family paid leave?

In a follow-up phone call to the L&I spokesperson, I asked who would pay for this benefit – businesses, the government, taxpayers? The spokesperson had no answer at the time but later sent an email with L&I’s response:

“Governor Wolf and [L&I] Secretary [Kathy] Manderino believe policies that support workers are good for both families and businesses. Companies that offer paid leave time report benefits that often offset upfront costs – those can include increased productivity and aid with the recruitment and retention of good employees. L&I estimates nearly 2.9 million Pennsylvanians would benefit from a paid family leave program.”

So, there you have it. The governor wants paid family leave.

And it says here that businesses will be forking over the money to pay for it.

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