Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman: Invest in Paid Family Leave

Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman Tom Nides Photo via Flickr

A strong voice from Wall Street is weighing in on the importance of paid family leave for parents of newborn children and people caring for seriously ill or elderly relatives. Tom Nides served as Deputy Secretary of State and recently moved to Morgan Stanley. The investment banker supports legislation that would create employee-paycheck deduction pools that would compensate workers during family leaves. Such bills have been introduced in Congress and in Albany, Nides said.

“For New Yorkers, it’s a huge benefit and a huge plus. We gotta move this debate forward. And by the way, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Last Wednesday, Rhode Island became the third state to offer workers paid family leave, along with New Jersey and California. New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats, have introduced federal legislation, but so far no Republicans have endorsed it.

Some business groups have said that even though family leave wouldn’t be paid by taxpayers or employers but by paycheck deductions, it should be voluntary, not government-mandated. Nides said it is an idea whose time has come.

“I am totally aware, as a businessperson and as someone who’s been involved in public policy for a long time, that this is difficult for a lot of companies, this is expensive,” Nides said. “But we’ve got to begin having this conversation in the United States.”

Nides said worker productivity will rise and employers will recognize the goodwill that comes out of paying for family leave time off.

“There’s no question that studies have shown that individuals given the opportunity to have a few weeks to take care of a newborn or a sick family member say it’s critically important to the productivity of that individual,” he added.

America lags behind many other developed nations in providing paid family leave.

By Mark Scheerer, Public News Service – NY
Listen to the full interview and news story here.

Pregnant Women Need a Break

Carol Joyner is the Director of the Labor Project for Working Families (LPWF), in partnership with Family Values @ Work, a partner organization of Washington Work and Family Coalition.

Any woman who’s gone through pregnancy hears the same advice: hydrate more and listen to the needs of your changing body.

Almost everything a pregnant woman does requires adjustment. Eliminating caffeine and alcohol, hydrating more frequently, avoiding strenuous activities — all are immediate considerations, activities women have control over. But what happens when pregnant workers have little to no control?

For women throughout the U.S., doing what’s right when you’re pregnant can bring unnecessary hardship. All too often, pregnant women are forced to choose between what’s best for them medically and what they need financially. Too many employers deny requests for simple workplace accommodations — a chair, an extra bathroom break, a bottle of water to drink — and fire pregnant women, forcing them to go on unpaid leave or quit their jobs at a time when they most need financial security.

The National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance recently published a report shedding light on the difficulties that so many pregnant women face on the job. The stories they’ve collected detail a variety of abuses. Denial of fluids, being forced to stand, being refused bathroom breaks — all are common complaints about employers who, in denying these rights, often break the law.

During her pregnancy, Hilda Guzzman, a full-time Dollar Tree employee in Long Island, asked her boss for a stool to sit on while working at the register for 8-10 hours a day. The response? “You can’t get special treatment,” her boss declared, “since a man can’t get pregnant.” The pressure from standing all day caused bleeding and premature labor pains, landing Hilda in the emergency room every few days. Quitting was not an option: Guzzman needed the job to be able to cover her medical expenses and pay the rent.

Dr. Lucy William, an emergency room doctor, treated a pregnant cashier who arrived at a New York hospital with severe dehydration. Turns out her employer refused to let the cashier drink water at the register.

In most states, pregnant women lack basic job protections for pregnancy-related accommodations. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) offers protection against discrimination — being treated differently from non-pregnant co-workers. But the law does not include safeguards should a woman need work adjustments as a result of her pregnancy, such as rest breaks, assistance with manual labor and recovery time following childbirth. As KJ Dell’Antonia writes in The New York Times, “Sometimes equal treatment is not enough to allow a woman to stay on the job.”

Fortunately, a growing movement of activists, organizations and elected officials are championing workplace fairness for pregnant women. Just recently, New York City took a major step in ensuring that pregnant women are not forced to choose between their health and their job. In a unanimous vote, the City Council passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which stipulates that employers in New York cannot force pregnant workers out of their jobs or deny them reasonable job modifications. The city joined a handful of states, including California, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas, that have offered similar safeguards to pregnant women.

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Members of 9to5 Wisconsin, an organization dedicated to winning justice for working women, join with Wisconsin legislators to push for pregnancy fairness.

In Washington, legislators are also taking note. The federal Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA), re-introduced earlier this year in both the House, by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and the Senate, by Robert Casey (D-PA), would close existing loopholes, ensuring that workers have reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. In recognition of the 35th Anniversary of the PDA on October 31, groups from across the country are planning a week of advocacy to highlight the important milestone the PDA represents and to push for greater protections for pregnant women on the job.

As the economy changes, so too should our workplace protections. Three-quarters of women now entering the workforce will become pregnant while working. Many, particularly low-wage women working in retail and service jobs, know all too well the dangers associated with lacking basic work accommodations.

Legislative protection like the PWFA leaves us all healthier — women and families, employers and taxpayers alike. It improves the health of women and children, decreasing the likelihood of childbirth-related complications. It guarantees economic security for millions of pregnant women and their families. It strengthens our economy by protecting jobs. And it benefits small businesses’ bottom line through reduced turnover, increased employer loyalty and higher productivity.

Pregnant women in our country deserve better; their work has value and their children make up our future society. Think about your mom, your sister or daughter. If you agree that they deserve basic guarantees and opportunities, then join with millions of Americans who support the PWFA. It’s beyond time that pregnant women get a break.

Via the Huffington Post

Yahoo expands maternity leave after banning telecommuting

From NBCbayarea.com:

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer PHOTO: Pascal Lauener / Reuters

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
PHOTO: Pascal Lauener / Reuters

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who sparked an uproar and hurt her image as a working mom when she banned telecommuting two months ago, is now offering employees generous new family leave benefits.

Under the new policy, mothers can take 16 weeks of paid leave with benefits, and fathers can take up to eight weeks, each time they have a new child via childbirth. Both parents receive eight weeks off for new children via adoption, foster child placement or surrogacy.

This change is a significant increase for Yahoo employees, particularly mothers, who will basically get twice as much paid time off. Under the old policy, moms received eight week paid after pregnancy, or 10 weeks if they had a C-section.

Yahoo will also give new parents $500 to spend on such things as house cleaning, groceries and babysitters, plus Yahoo-branded baby gifts.

Mayer’s decision, which brings the Sunnyvale-based Yahoo closer to Silicon Valley titans Google and Facebook, could help repair the damage as she works to turn around the struggling media giant.

But it doesn’t only make sense from a public relations standpoint, observers said. The new policy could fit into a broader corporate strategy to attract and retain more talent and ultimately improve Yahoo’s financial performance.

“It’s a smart move,” said Rachel Sklar, a New York-based blogger and founder of The Li.st, an organization dedicated to elevate the status of women in New Media and technology. “It suggests a long-term strategy. This is a great precedent.”

Companies who provide “everything” to their employees, such as free lunch and daycare sites at Google, do better financially in the long run because there is nothing to “distract” their workers from working, Sklar said.

“The temptation will be to see this through a gender lens – -that of course she did it because she’s a new-mom CEO,” Sklar said. “And this certainly would suggest she has a heightened awareness as a working mom, but this will encourage new parents to be engaged with the company and have a financial piece of mind. When companies nickel-and-dime their employees, it just adds to their burden.”

From the moment she became Yahoo’s new chief executive last year, Mayer, 37, has been seen as a symbol of corporate gender politics. She took the job when she was five months pregnant and worked through a two-week maternity leave that ended in October.

Her decision to return to work so quickly attracted both praise and criticism – praise for showing that a new mother could continue to steer a Fortune 500 company, and criticism for failing to set a realistic expectations for America’s working moms.

Mayer drew praise for adding perks such as new iPhones and free food, cutting company bureaucracy and redesigning work spaces. Many of those amenities were standard at her prior employer, Google.

In February, Mayer sparked another debate when she decided to end Yahoo’s lenient telecommuting policy. Employees with existing work-from-home arrangements were told they had to start coming into the office or look for another job.

The move reflected Mayer’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to turning around Yahoo and make it more competitive. But she was again accused of making it harder on working parents.

But her decision to double family leave for new parents from 8 weeks to 16 weeks puts Yahoo in the same ballpark as her Silicon Valley rivals: Google gives between 18 and 22 weeks off to new mothers, and Facebook told the New York Times that it gives new mothers and fathers four months of paid leave.

A Google spokeswoman said that all the Mountain View-company perks – which include preferred parking for expectant mothers and $500 in “baby bucks” to spend on things such as takeout dinners, like Yahoo is now offering – are so that life can be as smooth as possible for new parents. That’s of course, the spokeswoman noted, so that they can come back to work fully rested.

In California, workers are eligible for six weeks of partial pay through the state’s disability benefits program.

Mayer’s move also comes amid a broader debate in America about the country’s commitment to family leave. The United States, which hasn’t updated its Family and Medical Leave Act in 20 years, ranks among the worst of all developed countries. Sweden, Denmark Russian mothers get at least a year off paid and Canadian mothers get 50 weeks off paid.

The U.S. law requires large companies to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employers who need to care for a newborn child or an ill relative. And that relatively stingy benefit covers only workers who have been at a company for at least a year. That leaves millions without access to the benefit. Many more cut their absences short because they can’t afford unpaid leave.