Elizabeth (who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy) and her husband spent weeks trying to find the right doctors who could give their son the care and treatment he needed. It was like having another full-time job, she said. And then her husband got sick, too.
She could have faced a brutal choice: keep working and leave the care of her son and husband to others or quit and look after them herself. One choice carries great emotional costs, the other professional ones. Both come with a heavy financial burden. But we were able to help Elizabeth do right by her family and her career because we offer paid family leave, which allowed her to set her work aside to focus on caring for her loved ones without losing her job and source of income when it mattered most.
Not mandating paid leave is inexcusable. It hurts workers, businesses and our economy. Policymakers and business leaders have a moral and economic imperative to provide more assistance.
But we don’t have to wait for Congress to make progress on this all-too important issue. Business leaders can implement strong paid leave policies of their own in addition to using their platforms to advocate for a comprehensive national policy.
The question isn’t whether America can afford to institute paid family leave; it’s whether we can afford not to. I look at our experience at Levi Strauss & Co. and the overwhelming public support for paid leave and see the clear answer. Congress must pass the FAMILY Act and enshrine into law comprehensive paid leave benefits for workers, and business leaders should join companies like ours that have enacted programs on their own. Workers like Elizabeth shouldn’t have to choose between earning a living and caring for loved ones. Because we had made the investment in paid family leave, she was able to help her son and her husband recover, and she’s now back at work. It was a benefit for us all.