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Think Tanks' Report Calls For Paid Family Leave

John Ho Photograhgy
Flickr (BY-CC 2.0)

Income of about $1.4 billion a year for Illinois workers would be generated if paid parental leave became law — that’s according to a report out today from a pair of Illinois think tanks.

Paid-leave legislation was introduced last year, and state Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat, told NPR Illinois she would introduce a version of that again this legislative session.

The report’s lead author Jill Gigstad says, “Ultimately, paid parental leave is first and foremost about the health and well-being of newborn children, adopted children and their parents. But it also has a lot of economic impact as well – positive impacts.”

The study comes from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois' Project for Middle Class Renewal.

The report states, “The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee some form of paid family leave for new parents. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of job protection for mothers to care for newborns, the leave is unpaid. Without a federal standard, just 14 percent of workers currently have access to paid family leave. This has led five states and the District of Columbia to pass and implement their own policies. Since summer 2018, three more states have passed paid leave programs.”

Requiring employers to offer paid parental leave would not hurt the Illinois economy, but could boost local economies,” the report contends.

Robert Bruno, who heads the middle-class project, says, “It is quite costly when workers leave the labor force. It’s costly, short term. It's costly, long term,” he said. “We estimated was that without a  really solid leave program in the state, that that turnover or retention rate problem costs the economy roughly $456 million – that’s Illinois.”

Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says his organization opposes requiring employers to offer leave. He says they should be free to decide what benefits they want to offer.

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.