It’s quite remarkable to see Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina advocating that employers provide and pay for family and medical leave for their workers. This is like asking homeowners to set up their own personal fund to replace their house if it burns down in a fire. It’s an expensive proposition that only the richest among us could afford — even if the government promised to subsidize 25 percent of the cost of rebuilding. Homeowners’ insurance, spread over millions of home owners, is the low-cost alternative that enables all of us to protect our homes in the event of a disaster.
For most private-sector employers, the cost of providing paid family and medical leave to their own employees is prohibitive. A handful of companies with deep pockets — including, most recently, Vodafone, Netflix and Virgin — have stepped up to provide paid maternity or parental leave. But these companies have capped their costs by limiting access to these programs. Unlimited parental leave at Netflix, for example, is not available to the company’s hourly DVD workers. Vodafone’s leave policy is limited to maternity leave and does not provide for the 65 percent of the company’s global labor force that is male. Virgin’s generous parental leave policy applies to just 140 employees that work for Virgin Management, the unit that handles the company’s financial investments and licensing agreements.
Sen. Rubio’s (Fla.) paid family leave proposal would require the federal government to subsidize 25 percent of the cost of such leaves through a tax credit — a windfall to companies that already provide such leaves. Taxpayers will be footing the bill for paid leaves that very few of them will get to take.