9to5 Georgia and Georgia Paid Leave Coalition Release New Report on Paid Leave in Georgia

Staff Report

Friday, July 29th, 2022

Today, the Georgia Coalition for Paid Leave and the Georgia state chapter of 9to5, National Association of Working Women released “Dollars and Sense: A Cost/Benefit Analysis of Paid Leave in Georgia.” The new report, produced by the Georgia Coalition for Paid Leave, explores the impacts of the state’s potential paid leave law and offers a cost benefit analysis of paid leave for Georgia workers.

“Having access to paid leave offers real benefits for employees, employers and the economy as a whole,” said Mica Whitfield, Georgia state director, 9to5, National Association of Working Women. “Paid leave increases labor force participation for women and caregivers, boosts employee morale, lowers turnover, supports healthier workers and builds economic security. That’s a win-win for all Georgians.”

The report provides a deep dive into the need for comprehensive paid leave and the ways that providing a comprehensive paid leave program would benefit Georgians. Researchers included stories from real Georgians about their experiences with and without paid leave, and their perspectives on what comprehensive paid leave in Georgia should look like. Finally, the report ends with a summary of existing cost-benefit analyses and models for paid leave, and offers a list of lessons learned from implementation in other states.

Key findings include:

Paid leave has broad bipartisan support, with nearly 9 in 10 Georgia voters supporting paid leave in a variety of circumstances.

Currently, access to paid leave in Georgia is wholly inadequate and inequitable. Less than a quarter (23%) of all private sector workers have access to paid leave. Paid family leave is even less accessible to low-wage workers; only 12% of the lowest 25% of wage earners and 7% of the lowest 10% of wage earners have access. Family medical leave is disproportionately inaccessible to workers of color, including 57.7% of Black workers, 75.7% of Hispanic workers, 54.1% of Asian/Pacific Islander workers, 57.4% of Native American/Alaskan native workers, 73% of other or multiracial (non-Hispanic) workers and 57.8% of white workers.

Paid leave strengthens economic growth by increasing the workforce. Georgia ranks 30th in the U.S. for women’s labor force participation rate (LFPR) — addressing this would boost Georgia’s economic health. Estimates from McKinsey Global Institute show that implementing policies such as paid leave could add $2.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP by increasing women’s LFPR.

Paid leave improves the economic security of families. In one state, implementing a paid family leave program reduced the risk of poverty for mothers of 1-year-olds by 10.2% and increased their household income by 4.1%. Women who return to work after a paid leave are 39% less likely to go on public assistance and 40% less likely to use food stamps in the year following the child’s birth, compared to those who return to work after unpaid leave or take no leave at all. Not only does this help families become more secure, it also saves the state money through decreased utilization of public assistance programs. At the national level, workers and their families lose an estimated $22.5 billion each year due to a lack of paid family and medical leave policy.

Paid leave improves worker as well as public health. Based on data from 2017, in Georgia alone, 23% of workers have lost their job to care for themselves or a family member with illness, and more than 800,000 do not have a job that offers sick days. Georgia ranks 49th and 43rd in the U.S. for maternal and infant mortality, respectively. These crises disproportionately impact Black mothers and infants — paid leave can be a solution. Several studies have found that having access to paid leave during the pandemic could have been helpful in preventing consequences of COVID-19. A recent study showed that in states like Georgia with no statewide paid sick leave guarantee, emergency paid leave provisions — which expired on Dec. 31, 2020 — could have prevented about 400 COVID-19 cases per day.

Paid leave allows working parents and caregivers to stay in the workforce. Women already shoulder the brunt of family caregiving duties and COVID-19 only added to this burden, as school and childcare closures caused working moms to take on additional childcare responsibilities at home — forcing many working mothers to reduce their hours or leave their jobs entirely. Even in non-pandemic times, there have not been enough affordable, high-quality childcare options to meet the demands of working mothers. In Georgia, 34% of parents with young children said that they or someone in their family had to quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change a job in the past 12 months due to problems with child care.

Paid leave reduces turnover — lowering costs for employers. Qualitative studies find that offering paid parental leave can increase employee engagement and retention, and that not having paid leave contributes to employee turnover. In one state, mothers were more likely to return to work after childbirth after the implementation of a paid family leave program. By supporting employee retention, paid leave reduces turnover, which is a major expense on employers. An analysis in one state found that paid leave could save employers up to $89 million in turnover-related costs.
"Our vision is for all Georgia families to have economic security and peace of mind during the most important and difficult moments of life — whether that’s welcoming a new child into the family, caring for an aging parent or going through cancer treatment," said Feroza Freeland, policy manager of the Southern office at A Better Balance.

“Our research has shown that small business owners in Georgia support paid leave programs because it makes good business sense to take care of their employees,” said Rachel Shanklin, Georgia director, Small Business Majority. “We are glad to advocate for paid leave in Georgia and hope that the analysis in the ‘Dollars and Sense’ report will help to enact more robust and inclusive paid family and medical leave programs in the next legislative session. Creating a comprehensive paid leave program in Georgia will help small businesses become more competitive and will also help with workforce retention. It’s time for Georgia to take steps to advance policies that will support access to valuable benefits for small businesses and their employees.”

"The evidence is overwhelming: paid leave is a win-win for Georgia families and businesses," said Mindy Binderman, executive director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. "For example, paid parental leave has been shown to decrease infant mortality, improve a newborn’s health and well-being, and increase the likelihood that new parents will return to work."

“Paid leave is a critical piece of the puzzle in ensuring Georgia families are able to survive and thrive,” said Ky Lindberg, of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia. “This is particularly true as we continue to focus on improving health outcomes for moms, birthers and babies in our state. With two thirds of pregnancy-associated deaths happening postpartum, providing paid leave to Georgians will reduce the economic burden experienced by birthers and allows them space to focus on their health and the health of their child.”

“Every parent wants to be there for a new child and still be able to earn a living,” said Ashley Bostick, Savannah, GA-based working parent and member of 9to5 Georgia. “When my first child was born, I lost my job. And with the second, I had to go back to work too soon, despite complications from diabetes. I know our nation can do better, and I’m proud to be part of a movement to make sure we do just that. Families come first. We need to guarantee that everyone can succeed as providers and as caregivers, with meaningful income during leave and a job to come back to. This is what will help families, communities and our nation flourish.”