Why we offer paid family leave
Healthy children. Happy parents. A positive work culture. Engaged, productive and loyal employees who feel valued and supported to do their very best work. These are just a few of the many reasons the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children chooses to offer paid family leave. We believe offering paid family leave is not only good for young children and their families — it’s good for Vermont overall.
Research documents that paid family and medical leave has health benefits for children and parents, and also benefits employers via increased worker productivity and employee retention. But before getting into statistics, let’s consider how paid family leave impacted the life of one Vermonter — our director of innovation, Molly.
Molly is a hard-working, highly valued employee. She’s the kind of passionate, talented and dedicated professional that a mission-driven organization like ours relies upon to get things done. Molly loves her job, and it shows. The same can be said of her husband, Tom, who works fulltime at a nonprofit promoting a healthy environment. The couple shares a lifetime professional commitment to improving Vermont communities.
Molly and Tom also share another passion: family. They were already raising a 2-year-old and working hard to cover expenses when the couple discovered Molly was pregnant with twins. They considered the option of one parent dropping out of the workforce to take care of the children, but realized that would mean sacrificing income needed to support a growing family. For one of them, it would also have meant giving up valued work and falling behind in a career that took decades to build.
The Permanent Fund’s family leave policy made it possible for Molly to take the time she needed at home to bond with her newborn twins without sacrificing income or leaving a career she loved. Molly was able to take 12 weeks of fully paid leave and a second 12 weeks with 40 percent salary coverage. In addition, the Permanent Fund offers employees an annual childcare scholarship of $2,500 per child, capping at $5,000.
When Molly returned to work, she was ready to dive back in with renewed commitment and enthusiasm. She continues to be a highly productive and engaged employee.
Molly’s story is just one example of how family-friendly work policies aren’t just good for employees — they’re also good for employers. In our case, 100 percent of parents who have taken leave have returned to work at the Permanent Fund, saving us costs in recruiting and training, as well as productivity lost during additional position vacancy.
We all agree that parents need to be able to care for and bond with newborn children, but the reality is that more than 70 percent of Vermont children under age 6 live in households with all of their parents in the workforce. Because they can’t access paid family leave, too many of these families are forced to choose between their natural desire to provide their children the best start in life and their ability to keep a good job and make ends meet. This problem is exacerbated by Vermont’s shortage of high-quality, affordable child care.
A study on the feasibility of a family and medical leave insurance program in Vermont, released last month by the Vermont Commission on Women, found that the implementation of a paid leave program could save Vermont more than $500,000 annually (as much as $270,000 from reduced public assistance among working women with a recent child birth in addition to almost $280,000 from health care savings due to an increased number of Vermont’s newborn infants who are healthy and have normal birthweights).
We need to ensure we have systems in place that allow Vermonters to balance work and family rather than forcing parents to choose between them. Access to paid family and medical leave, coupled with access to high-quality, affordable child care when parents return to work, would boost Vermont’s economy by attracting more young talented people to the state and encouraging young families to stay here, which ultimately helps attract new businesses and helps our current small business community thrive.
Aly Richards is CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.