Unintended Consequences of Family-Friendly Policies

by Rhode

When Family-Friendly Policies Backfire

Anyone have thoughts on when family-friendly policies backfire? Should we, as a society, support employees who choose to have a family?

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109 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences of Family-Friendly Policies

  1. Are we talking about legislation (and its “unintended” [errr…overlooked] consequences) or firms who offer that as a part of compensation (at the expense of higher pay, etc.)? When you say “policy”, it could be business or govt; when you say “society”, it sounds like “govt”.

  2. Parents are allocated a total of 480 days per child, which they can take any time until the child is 8 years old. They can share these days, although 60 are allocated specifically to the father. And they are entitled to receive 80 percent of their wages, although this is capped at a certain level.

    If we can go from kids running wild and unsupervised through the neighborhood all day all summer c.1985 to teenagers never have spent even a minute not under direct adult supervision c. 2015, I don’t see why we can’t move toward a world where mothers and fathers are under intense social pressure to split those 480 days relatively evenly. Although, I bet at most even a President Sanders with a democratic congress would only able to get us 130 days – at the very most.

  3. This article’s headline should read “Mother-Friendly Policies Backfire”. Grr. This is why I support mandatory paid parental leave for both male and female parents! Sigh.

    Rhett, I see your 130 days and think that a 90 day max is more likely with Democrats and Sanders controlling everything. :)

  4. This is a tricky subject. Looking at it from strictly my own perspective, I want to be able to negotiate my own deal with my employer. I don’t want formal policies that will then be used as an excuse to deny women opportunities. But looking at it more broadly, I’m sure plenty of people are in positions where they cannot negotiate their own workable solution, so some societal policy is needed. I would not want work to provide child care, because I want to select my own. Most desirable to me would be a bucket of days at my disposal, and working from home.

    Rhett, would you expect that 130 days to be paid or unpaid? I think the best we could hope for on the current political climate is protected but unpaid days off. I learned quickly when my kids were young and they were sick to say that I was sick, or, if my husband was able to split the day with me (before telecommuting), to say I had a repair person coming. It was tolerated much better by my childless boss.

  5. Rhett, would you expect that 130 days to be paid or unpaid?

    Paid at 80% of wages up to a max of 8k per month.

  6. The problem is that even if the policies are gender-neutral, women still tend to be the primary caregivers (not to mention the ones who give birth and breastfeed) so they will be more likely to take advantage of these policies.

  7. The point of the article is that such policies cause some unfortunate consequences. Strengthen/extend the policy and you get more of the same. The flip side of mandating a benefit that will be used largely by group X (here, women of a certain age)– is that you’re making it more expensive to hire group X. The upshot: their other forms of comp will be reduced and/or fewer of them will be hired.

    See also: the minimum wage. When we describe it as paying X more, it sounds good. When we describe it as making it more expensive to hire X, it’s a bit more sobering.

  8. MBT gets to another problem: a mandate is ham-fisted, one-size-fits-all. Moreover, if I’m a member of group X but don’t plan to use the benefit, that’s not a credible commitment, so I’m going to pay the price as well.

  9. Eric,

    The point would be to split the leave 50/50 and incentivize employers to ensure it happens. Say, the government pays 95% of the cost but if one of their employees is eligible for leave and doesn’t take it the employer pays 100% of the cost as a penalty.

  10. That’s Sanders’ proposal? I didn’t see anything about that in the article.

    50/50 between males/females? (In practice, if more women are single HofH’s, they’ll still use more. But that would reduce the discrepancy.)

    *Taxpayers* would pick up the tab? That moves costs from workers and firms to taxpayers. I’m not excited about that, but OK. Do we have an estimate of the cost?

    I don’t follow your 2nd sentence: if I don’t take the leave, then the firm has to pay a penalty?

  11. then the firm has to pay a penalty?

    Right. We have Bob and Helen and we have 130 work days total. Helen can only use 65 and the government will pay 95% of the cost up to $8k per month. If Bob or his employer chooses not to take his half of the leave his employer is assessed a fine equal to 13 weeks of Bob’s salary or $22,420 whichever is lower.

  12. Do we have an estimate of the cost?

    4 million babies are born in the US each year, the median salary for someone 24-36 is 38k so 38k x .5 x 4,000,000 x. .95 = $72.2 billion a year.

  13. Force them both to take leave? Egad; not my cup of tea! In any case, for the purposes of the thread, you’re going to (strongly) encourage firms not to hire Bob AND Helen– or to pay them both a lot less.

    How does the proposal address single parents?

  14. Eric,

    But, we wouldn’t be taxing the average family we would be taxing families like mine and above.

  15. “This is why I support mandatory paid parental leave for both male and female parents! ”

    I’m reading this as something similar to the proposal Rhett describes, and I would very much dislike working under those conditions. I generally oppose these types of mandates that strike me as social engineering determined by “smart” bureaucrats and that would cause their own unintended consequences.

    I’ve seen unintended consequences from the perspective of both employee and employer, and I’m not sure the the benefits outweigh the negatives.

  16. So, about half of the families would be taxed for an average of about $2,000 a pop.

    Certainly not. ~5% would be taxed at $20k a pop.

  17. The math works: people earning $190,000 or more would average $2,000 more in taxes.
    Not sure about the resulting economic incentives– in terms of earning or reporting income.
    Not sure about the mandated inefficiencies or inequities.

    How would this work for single HoH’s? Do they get the entire 130?

  18. Not sure about the resulting economic incentives– in terms of earning or reporting income.

    We are so far to the left of the Laffer Curve it’s not a concern.

  19. For the top 5%? I don’t see how one would confidently infer that from the limited/flawed data. But we’re going afield now…

    Are you able to answer my question about how the policy impacts (single) heads-of-households?

  20. Are you able to answer my question about how the policy impacts (single) heads-of-households?

    If the father is unknown or deemed unfit, then the mom gets the full 130 days.

  21. CoC – yup, I agree with Rhett 100%. If no mandatory leave, then we get what we have now = zero support for working parents. If we decide we want to support people having kids >> providing the next generation of taxpayers AND being productive workers/members of society, then we need to have policies that actually do the supporting.

  22. Being part time made it very difficult for me to find a job in house or at a smaller firm, even though I was willing to go full time if I had a shorter commute. As soon as a recruiter realized I was a mother of one (and thus might have more), the recruiter hung up on me.

    One recruiter said a firm would interview me only if I were willing to promise not to have more children, because the firm did not want me to take a maternity leave or ask for a reduced schedule.

    Ironically, the firm is well known for its employment discrimination practice….

  23. What L said.

    My preference would be to treat it the same way we treat unemployment or disability insurance, where everyone pays in, and then you get to claim the benefit when you qualify. And it also makes it less a “mother’s” program, which is a guaranteed path to immediate failure (followed by a torrent of “see, told you it wouldn’t work”).

    I also see a demographic shift, which goes back to the recent generational discussion: we are seeing many more young men making the decision to cut back or opt out entirely, because they don’t see partnership as compatible with the kind of dad they want to be. Will it ever be 50/50? I wouldn’t expect it to be. But I do think it’s going to become more and more socially acceptable for men to take off and cut back with kids in more and more industries — because the most effective way to get something done is to seek forgiveness instead of asking permission, and the data suggest that men tend to be far more likely to do just that.

  24. “one can imagine some interesting/unfortunate incentives there too

    Such as?”

    Perhaps making single moms less desirable as employees because they’d take the full 130 days off.

  25. One of the things I have learned as I have grown out of the idealism I had in my 20’s — these kinds of policies cannot exist in a vacuum. The article doesn’t talk about how the family leave has ruined everything for Sweden – because it hasn’t. There is broader support for the many facets of the human experience (universal health and dental care, paid sick leave, state-run and funded preschool), and this is just part of the picture.

    I used to think that single-payer, universal health care would solve all the the medical system’s problems. However, I realize that as long as elderly do not have safe places to go, homeless people don’t have beds to sleep in, hungry people want free sandwiches, drug addicts can’t access treatment, mentally ill people are not compelled to get treatment, psychiatric treatment is rarely available except for those who are profoundly ill, then universal health care can only do so much.

    You can mandate that women (hello, can we just say parents?) can have the right to work part-time, or have onsite daycare (for parents?), but if you have a country that does not operate under the rule of law, or there is wide spread unemployment, or no recourse for discrimination, then these policies can’t be expected to work. The comment: “we passed a law and no one followed it” doesn’t mean there is a problem with the law – there is a problem with the people expected to secure the rights of the vulnerable.

  26. Finn,

    If it becomes a problem then moms where there father is unknown or unfit get 13 weeks off and 13 weeks of infant daycare.

  27. Agree with L, but also with MBT. When I had my children, I was established in my career and had several years under my belt with my employer, so I was a known quantity. I think that makes a difference. I think because of that I was in a better positition to negotiate.

  28. Rhett,

    That was just one example off the top of my head.

    Another possible example would be incentivizing the father not being part of the family.

  29. ” When I had my children, I was established in my career and had several years under my belt with my employer, so I was a known quantity. I think that makes a difference. I think because of that I was in a better positition to negotiate.”

    Not having kids until first becoming established in a career is typical Totebaggy behavior, and is one reason we don’t, as a group, have the same problems as other subgroups of the general population.

  30. Another possible example would be incentivizing the father not being part of the family.

    If the father is isn’t identified then the mother won’t get child support from him. That would be a pretty big incentive to identify him. If you’re saying he would pay her under the table and she would agree to this without a legally binding contract, all to avoid 13 weeks of paid time at home – I don’t think that would be a problem.

  31. “all to avoid 13 weeks of paid time at home – I don’t think that would be a problem.”

    Avoiding the 13 weeks off may make him more employable.

  32. Avoiding the 13 weeks off may make him more employable.

    Enough to be worth the massive about of hassle of trying to avoid it? What % of people do you think would attempt it?

  33. But why are we talking about forcing people to take the 13 weeks off? Is the idea, then, that the baby gets 13 weeks with mom and then 13 weeks with dad so doesn’t go to daycare till 6 months? I can see potential benefits in that but still one size does not fit all.

    And what about sole proprietors, including totebaggy occupations like real consultants, doctors, other medical people, professional golfers, bowlers, jockeys, some lawyers (whether solo or part of a firm, my understanding is many times a individuals comp is tied to the very business brought in and billed) who really do have to show up to make their pay? If a sole proprietor tailor, or hairdresser, has to close shop for 3 months, maybe a big chink of business just decides to go someplace else permanently. Sure, there can have a sub running the store. but if the regulars don’t like the sub’s work, maybe they walk.

    And is there an exception for economic hardship? Assuming Rhett’s 80% up to $8k/mo from above, for some folks $6400/mo might be only 1/3 or less of what they make. I could see someone making $.25M/yr saying they can’t afford to take a $43k hit by staying home 3 months. Walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins.

  34. And what about sole proprietors, including totebaggy occupations like real consultants, doctors, other medical people, professional golfers, bowlers, jockeys, some lawyers

    95% paid by the government up to $8k a month or pay the fine.

  35. not buying it. why are we forcing people to stay away from their chosen work?

  36. “why are we forcing people to stay away from their chosen work?”

    Because some bureaucrats believe it’s for the greater good.

  37. Maybe I missed it, but is this mandated leave policy working well any place?

  38. The OP asks, should we, as a society, support employees who choose to have a family.

    We as a society and by tax policy have always supported workers who choose to have a family – workers with non employed or limited work history spouses who have children or other family to care for. Married filing jointly, marital benefits in estate tax deductions and the double lifetime exemption for the married, exemptions for dependents, tax free benefits for families of the worker, not just the individual, spousal IRAs, spousal IRA rollover on death, spousal or widow’s Social Security benefit, or Medicare based on solely on the workers’ taxpaying and work history, joint and survivor pensions.

    So the actual question being asked has two aspects. Should we, as a society, support workers who have family responsibility and do not “choose” to have a designated (paid or unpaid) domestic manager/caregiver to leave the worker free to perform paid work entirely at the employer’s or client’s convenience. That is how the question is usually taken.

    However, there is a second more theoretical aspect, namely, should we as a society support “employees” with families, either by increasing employer mandates or by removing employer provided benefits and have the government provide them all. There is a growing belief that an ideal world would not have employee/employer relationships, so that all benefits would be privately arranged or taken care of by government. After all, we could have a 100% consultant/piecework/contractor/employee at will economy in which the business owners simply pay an hourly rate as needed or take a cut of so called independent activity under their umbrella (like a franchise fee or the Uber model). There would be no regulatory burden on employers because there wouldn’t be employees – just contractors.

  39. “ If no mandatory leave, then we get what we have now = zero support for working parents.”

    I disagree that we currently have zero support for working parents. Requiring all parents to take time off seems like overkill, and provides incentive for the creation of two-working-parent families, which falls in line with a particular agenda and is probably not an unintended consequence of this proposal. It penalizes families who want a SAHP. Basically it reduces choices.

  40. why are we forcing people to stay away from their chosen work?

    It’s for the children. Also, to ensure women aren’t unfairly penalized.

  41. Because some bureaucrats believe it’s for the greater good.

    And voters like me think it’s a good idea. These things don’t happen in a vacuum.

  42. The bank I worked for recently defined family policies to apply to employees to take care of any relative such as a child, husband OR parents. Unless your parents die young, most people will have to eventually deal with elder care issues so family policies are not just for people with children.

    I’ve worked in groups where someone had a lot of time off (she had twins as their 3 and 4th kids), and cases where some people lived near the office and always showed up in blizzards etc. It is never going to be really fair.

  43. It penalizes families who want a SAHP.

    How so? If mom isn’t working for pay Dad still gets his 13 weeks.

  44. And here is something for Rocky and Mooshi and a few others. The intro monologue (as is usually the case with Arlo Guthrie) is better than the actual song.

  45. If you force all parents to take 13 weeks off, I can bet that one unintended consequence is going to be even further delayed childbearing by Totebag types trying to build professional careers. And instead of just discriminating against young married women, employers will start discriminating against young married men too.

  46. young married women, employers will start discriminating against young married men too.

    Since only married people have kids?

  47. A few years ago, we were visiting some friends during autumn in the old country. The father of two children (aged 4 months and 3 years at that point) and my mother were chatting. The wife had just gone back to work (as a physician) and Dad was taking some time with the kids. My mother asked him when he would be returning to his job (some kind of middle manager) – and he said “next summer” and she was entirely lost. She thought there was some kind of language problem. Eventually they understood each other – he would be home for the next 9 months with the kidlets. On top of this, the family pays nothing (directly) for the three year old to be in preschool 10-15 hours per week.

  48. Of course not, Rhett, but a law firm or an investment bank is probably going to be a lot more concerned about the possibility of a married 28 year old guy needing parental leave than a bachelor. And those are usually not the kind of jobs where taking 13 weeks off would be looked at kindly.

  49. “young married women, employers will start discriminating against young married men too.

    Since only married people have kids?”

    Old guys having kids is not uncommon. Perhaps this would have a result of having employers highly value women past childbearing age.

  50. Mandatory time off could have quite an impact on health care, given physician shortage. The impact might be especially great in areas that already have difficulty attracting physicians and use forgiveness of student loan debt as a way to attract physicians, which would mean their physicians are more likely than the general physician population to be fresh out of school and right in prime childbearing years (at least for MDs).

  51. “Since only married people have kids?”

    Certainly more true among college-educated people, so this policy may reduce the marriage rate among this demographic group also.

    “Mandatory time off could have quite an impact on health care, given physician shortage.”

    Maybe another government program could be created to address this issue.

  52. And those are usually not the kind of jobs where taking 13 weeks off would be looked at kindly.

    You don’t think that would change? If you’re transferred from the NYC office of JP Morgan to the Frankfurt office, is you career on hold because you now get (and take) 6 weeks of vacation a year? Or, do people just shrug it off?

  53. Maybe another government program could be created to address this issue.

    Exactly, more deregulation to allow PAs and NPs to do more of the work.

  54. CofC,

    I would also argue for more pharmaceutical deregulation, the number of items that can be sold over the counter should be vastly higher than it is now. You should not have to go in for a perfunctory exam ever 6 months to get your scripts refilled. That would increase the slack in the primary case system tremendously.

  55. “You should not have to go in for a perfunctory exam ever 6 months to get your scripts refilled. ”

    Do you think most Americans could be trusted with that much freedom? ;)

  56. Do you think most Americans could be trusted with that much freedom? ;)

    For everything but antibiotics and narcotics? Sure.

  57. CofC,

    So, do I take it you are not in favor of deregulating access to pharmaceuticals?

  58. CofC,

    The other option would be to have pharmacists do a lot more of the drug management after the initial diagnosis. Or, as in many countries, do some of the front line diagnosis. There are a lot of options for reducing regulation in order to increase access to healthcare.

  59. For some reason, the talk of only married people having babies reminded me of Allboys. Does anyone know how she is doing?

  60. ““Since only married people have kids?”

    Certainly more true among college-educated people, so this policy may reduce the marriage rate among this demographic group also.”

    When DW and I were DINKs, the tax policies created a financial incentive for couples like us to live together without being married, then get married when we had kids, especially if one of us would become a SAHP or even cut back to PT.

    Since then, the marriage penalty has been reduced, but we seem to be heading back there again.

  61. Finn and Fred are right about this. What if you are the only doctor, dentist or orthodontist in your small town, and patients depend on you. Where would that doctor find someone to fill in for him for thirteen weeks? What if you are farmer that has animals that have to be fed every day or cows that have to be milked a couple of times a day. Who is going to do that for you while you take thirteen weeks off?
    DH is a sole proprietor as an engineer. His clients would leave him and not refer other business to him if he took thirteen weeks off. It would take him a very long time to rebuild his client base.

  62. What if you are the only doctor, dentist or orthodontist in your small town, and patients depend on you. Where would that doctor find someone to fill in for him for thirteen weeks?

    I believe that was or is ADA’s bread and butter. I think she was up in a very remote area of Alaska filling in a while back.

  63. I think Rhett is just stirring the pot.

    His proposal would force families to take a minimum 20% pay cut for six months each time they have child. Not to mention that some families would prefer a six month leave for one parent while the other works.

    As Finn, Fred, Sheep Farmer have mentioned, sole proprietors can’t necessarily close down for thirteen weeks. Although I don’t know how you would enforce that anyway.

  64. His proposal would force families to take a minimum 20% pay cut for six months each time they have child.

    Where did you get that? It’s 95% up to a $8000 max. Hell, I’d make it tax free.

  65. Rhett, simply, to what end? What is the great societal benefit of forcing someone to be away from work for 13 weeks if they don’t want to or if their professional circumstance prevents?

    A potential consequence of this mandatory time off could well be that the totebag class and above have even fewer kids (yes, to some this would be a feature not a bug). Or, even, that lower income folks have fewer kids.

    Which could lead to opening up another can of worms: immigration policy (on which we are AFU) so there are enough of the younger generation to take care of me in my dotage.

    topic for another day.

  66. “What if you are the only doctor, dentist or orthodontist in your small town, and patients depend on you.”

    It’s not just medical professionals. What if you are the only person in the community able and willing to maintain septic systems, and you are mandated to not work for 13 weeks?

  67. “immigration policy (on which we are AFU) so there are enough of the younger generation to take care of me in my dotage.”

    It is my contention that the use of immigrants as cheap labor has stunted the development of technology to perform the tasks performed by those immigrants.

  68. A potential consequence of this mandatory time off could well be that the totebag class and above have even fewer

    My contention would be that they would have more.

  69. What if you are the only person in the community able and willing to maintain septic systems, and you are mandated to not work for 13 weeks?

    What happens when thy go out with a back injury now?

  70. Upthread someone noted that caring for family can often encompass – parents, spouse/partner, and children. In the past 3 years, more of my PTO has gone to caring for my parents than for my kids. My kids aren’t sick often, so it is mainly routine doctor and dentist once a year and the every 6-8 week orthodontist. My dad had 2 different types of heart doctors, primary care, urologist, and dentist. My mom sees the cardiologist, pacemaker device specialist, retina specialist, primary care, dentist, rheumatologist, audiologist, and now starting on the nephrologist next week. She sees each of them at least twice and some as many as 6 times a year, when there are no issues. Add an issue and you add an appointment or two. We have at least one appointment per month. This month we will have had 4 appointments, and they are almost impossible to piggyback together.

  71. One of the things I have noticed, in Sweden, is that it seems like companies hire people to carry the workload for people out on leave. Recent grads (high school and college) and students are often able to get short term assignments to do work for employees out on leave. It is a type of paid internship. I imagine that because family leave is a frequent problem that managers need to solve, they are better equipped to fix it. Also, because there are such strong workplace protections, the solution, “let’s just make everyone work harder for 6 weeks” is not as workable as it is here (legally or practically).

    I work (occasionally) in a rural area where doctors don’t want to live. It is a busy place with ten+ physicians in the building on a normal day. Only half of them live in the community. I think the idea that one doctor is holding a community together is a bit of an anachronism – people quit, move, need open heart surgery and have babies now. Making it acceptable and normal to take leave for predictable events ensures it is easier for coverage to be arranged.

  72. Recent grads (high school and college) and students are often able to get short term assignments to do work for employees out on leave.

    An apocalyptic dystopia, surely?

  73. I haven’t read through all the comments but as a parent (and in the caregiver role as AustinMom described) I need flexibility all year long rather than a one time leave. I was able to get back to work in six weeks after my first child but I needed time in dribs and drabs to attend to sick kid, doctors appointments etc.

  74. Agree with Fred, Finn, CoC, and Sheep. This is a horrible idea. I can’t believe how many people are so eager to have the government plan their lives for them.

    “sorry…$*20*K average for those earning $190K or more.

    Sounds like a good start.sorry…$*20*K average for those earning $190K or more.

    Sounds like a good start.

    Am I the only one who thinks that $20k is actually a hell of a lot of money?

    Rhett – don’t buy any boats until you’ve come to the Annapolis Boat Show in the Fall. Make sure you pick the right weekend (sail or power). You will want to have walked around and inside many different brands and options and layouts. Also, don’t quote me on this, but I think that Bennetau is the equivalent to Hyundai. Nothing wrong with that at all, but you would at least want to learn why it costs what it does, and why a different brand that looks similar is five times more. You and I probably would not care about the distinctions, but you’d want to know.

  75. I appreciate the list of family friendly benefits Meme constructed and concur with her analysis that the U.S. is at least moderately family friendly. No country in the world has figured out how to balance paid work with unpaid (usually caregiving work) and individuals vary widely in their opinion of how much caregiving work should be done. Merkel has argued that western European levels of social benefits are unsustainable. That may be true only while the U.S. and Europe are competing with the global population peak of people born in the 1970’s. We don’t know what will happen when all the one child families in China become China’s sandwich generation.

    I think Rhett underestimates the effect of high marginal tax rates on second income earners. I argued when Obama took office that ~$100k was a more realistic threshold for increased taxes unless the government gets serious about taxing carried interest at marginal rates, etc.

    Since Rhode is the original poster and we have babies the same age, I’ll also point out childcare cost and quality issues. Paid childcare workers do at best an adequate job in most cases and children in paid childcare are managed rather than interacted with, in my experience. For small families, I think most kids still get enough 1:1 parent time, but in larger families like mine, it’s more of a challenge. I’m still struggling with my parenting priorities. And some children (one of mine in particular) seem to need more attention and discipline than others. (It is not the Future Elementary School Teachers of America who crawl under the table during reading group)

  76. Rhett-When one who is self-employed throws out his back or is injured in some other way, he just continues on as best he can. Last fall DH was injured and had to hobble from job site to job site. All of his clients were sympathetic and understood that the job would take a little longer than usual to complete; most people are decent and will cut you some slack if you are injured, not so much if you are taking thirteen weeks off for a baby.

  77. @ WCE – “(It is not the Future Elementary School Teachers of America who crawl under the table during reading group)”. Hehe…(DS ran around at home – he is not a reader – he does the required minimum and that is it, this has not changed in spite of my efforts, and that of quite a good school). He liked the “books for boys” and the content of his writing has come along nicely.
    Regarding the reading issue, my colleague has two active boys. WCE, he described his younger son the same way, the boy does great with one on one interaction but walks away from a group. His wife is a certified teacher, they just moved here. They are seriously thinking of homeschooling given that there is lots of support for homeschooling in this state. It will probably be for the elementary years only.

  78. “It penalizes families who want a SAHP.
    How so?”

    By offering additional financial benefits only to working mothers.

    “Not to mention that some families would prefer a six month leave for one parent while the other works.”

    Not allowed because a 50/50 split of parenting duties is the goal.

    “ I can’t believe how many people are so eager to have the government plan their lives for them.”

    This is at the core of my opposition. I admit it’s not always completely rational thinking, but I’d rather make my own mistakes instead of having the government make for me.

  79. It seems like whenever these proposals arise, they are based on the false belief that everyone wants continued full-time employment with large corporations, government agencies, or large law firms. It would be nothing more than increased costs, increased friction impeding economic growth and productivity , increased compliance burdens. In addition to penalizing families who don’t want two FT working parents, it would significantly penalize small companies and businesses.

    DW has never actually taken any sort of maternity leave, and she works as a W-2 employee as well as an independent contractor. Part of the reason her boss likes her and is willing to pay well for part time work is that she is usually available on a moment’s notice. We’re on vacation now and she has her work laptop in the hotel just in case something comes up.

    If she were required to take 13 weeks of leave with each of our three kids, then this whole arrangement probably would not have worked out at all. Her boss may as well just hire a FT employee and expect him to be in the office.

    Within reason, people should be free to create flexible and specific employment arrangements that are mutually beneficial to employer and employee without this excessive government intrusion.

  80. I wonder how much this issue is even the main problem anymore for most women — if you work 30 hours a week at Walmart, you don’t get any bennies of any kind anyway.

  81. RMS-or if you work at the college in my town that cut the hours of its part time workers to thirty hours a week so that it doesn’t have to comply with the ACA. I doubt that W&L, which has over a billion dollar endowment, is unique in the college world of not treating its unskilled workers well.

  82. I got an article in my LinkedIn feed today that suggested the need for a new employment status between 1099 and W-2 for contractors (from 10/hr to 1000/hr) or even for low wage part time workers at will, such as baristas or Walmart stockers who don’t have a fixed schedule. This was of course “because workers like the freedom” and antiquated classification rules that hamper the new economic arrangements, especially from the job creators/ “employers” point of view, were written before the modern scheduling algorithms and work platforms such as Uber were even a gleam in a boss’s eye.

    (Let me say that I think the mandated paternity leave proposal is ridiculous. But since it has no chance of being enacted in this country, it is just a jumping off point for a discussion. )

    Mrs Milo is the poster child for the successful UMC version of this new economy. The contractor middle class family head with children who can’t rely on a traditional employment relationship for benefits or predictable income or mortgage qualification is a lot less interested in freedom and more in security. A satisfied Uber driver using it as a supplemental source of income or the financial basis for a unencumbered lifestyle is the poster child for the lower middle class or young adult version. The young mother taking two busses to unreliable Starbucks shifts is out of luck, even though she is a W-2 employee.

    The difference between the US patchwork system of benefits and a European democratic socialist model is that the employer to a great degree is not directly on the hook for the benefits. The government pays the parental leave pay, the health care, the retirement pension, unemployment. Everyone pays taxes, primarily via VAT and wage withholding. Capital is not taxed, corporate tax rates are fairly low and do not apply heavily to small business. And in most of Europe, the birth rate is very low. European governments have been trying to increase their populations, especially of original nationals, ever since WWII. In the aftermath of that war, all hands including the women were needed on the economic deck. In the US we don’t need to encourage people to have babies – we have plenty of them at all levels of society. We sent all the women back to the home after WWII, and despite the experience of most of our SES, there is still a strong feeling that if more women stayed home or worked only in low wage support positions, didn’t do so well in school for so long, didn’t dilute the labor pool, took care of the young and the old without pay, there would be enough jobs at a family supporting wage for the men and for women who “have to work” and our country would be on a better economic and social footing.

  83. Wow! I missed a great discussion (again!). When I submitted the topic, I wasn’t thinking about DS’ surgery and the amount of PTO needed to cover my absence at work. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have more PTO to be used however the user sees fit. As it stands now, I have 2 weeks vacation and 3 weeks sick time per year, and the balance carries forward each year. I wonder if the mandatory minimum were raised to 4 wks sick and 4 wks vacation for FTE would the world come to an end? I figure the 4/4 could be prorated hourly if needed.

    Anyway, I’m working on my time sheet for the past 2 weeks. In the year I’ve worked here, I have never used so much PTO. 2 days sick, 1 excused sick day for surgery, a day off using comp, and some other comp hours thrown about when I needed time in the middle of the day to handle DS paperwork and pre-operation program. It works out to 22.5 hours sick time and 9 hours comp. I should have just taken a week off! LOL! And I get to do it again in a few months when they go in to repair the hernia “discovered” (more like exacerbated) during this surgery.

  84. @Rhode – I thought about you and your PTO situation when this topic came up. Hopefully you will have some PTO time to have a real vacation or at least a staycation. I leave a few days each year for emergencies, if nothing comes up I can carry the few days over.

  85. Also, don’t quote me on this, but I think that Bennetau is the equivalent to Hyundai.

    A solid well equipped boat at a reasonable price with a great warranty? Keeping in mind it would just be sailing around Cape Cod bay maybe as far as Maine or Nantucket and always in nice weather.

  86. What would people say to a mandatory 6 weeks paid vacation each year? If everyone takes it there is no penalty for not taking it.

  87. Rhett – as long as a person can use the time for whatever s/he wants. If someone wants to save it to have paid time off after childbirth, or to care of mom/dad, that should be allowed.

    Louise – I’m rarely sick, and always get 1-3 hours of comp time a week. I’ve also never taken a vacation day (I’ve only been around a year, and built up enough comp time to take that first when I’ve needed days). The only hiccup in my plan was unpaid mat leave – for 12 weeks I didn’t accrue any time. As of my last pay period, I had over 3 weeks in the bank. After this pay period, I think it will drop to 2. I try to carry a week over in comp and vaca and 2-3 days of sick time. This way if I need a buffer, I have it. If DS was in daycare, I can’t imagine what would happen. He probably wouldn’t be ready to go back until Monday, and DH and I would have been scrambling. Grandma saves the day… again!

  88. It’s common to assume that benefits are just given by companies. But they are part of one’s compensation. And the flip side of that “coin” is that they are a significant part of the cost of hiring (and training) workers. So, we don’t “get” benefits, but we “purchase” them with wages.

    There are two primary reasons to get bennies from a firm: 1.) They are subsidized by govt as a tax-free form of compensation. (This causes the *vast* bulk of our problems in health care/insurance, but that’s a very different thread!) It’s a lot easier to get X with pre-tax than post-tax dollars. 2.) Firms are often in a position to use economies of scale to get bennies to us more efficiently (in terms of time and money) than we can get them ourselves.

    As such, philosophically and practically, why would one want to *mandate* X weeks of bennie Z for all/some workers, forcing them to sacrifice other forms of compensation and creating a range of unfortunate (“unintended”) consequences?

  89. There are two primary reasons to get bennies from a firm:

    You’re missing the biggest one. People are often very irrational.

    Job A pays $104k a year and you can take up to 6 weeks off, but you won’t get paid for those week.

    Job B pay $92k but you get 6 weeks of paid vacation.

    Now, you’d say those two jobs are economically similar. Job A might be even a little better, as if you need some extra money you can just not take as much vacation. But, how the average person perceives each job is vastly different than how a disinterested and highly rational third party would look at it.

  90. I agree with Eric that we often forget the benefits are part of compensation (until you are trying to compare two job offers). But, for many compensation is pay for hours worked, no paid vacation, sick days or holidays, no paid insurance, and they must work the schedule dictated by the employer. The big “benefit” is they are often able to get overtime hours and pay.

    I see quite a bit of this in my area. Some of the unintended consequences of this approach are kids sent to school when they are sick and adults go to work sick, use of the ER vs primary care, minimal participation by parents at kids school or supervision of kids who are cutting school or participating in gangs.

    When you mandate minimum benefits, it is often these folks at the very bottom of the income spectrum that benefit and those above see little to no positive impact. Some of the push back comes because these folks are the ones that provide the services – maids, landscape crews, etc. – and many who purchase those services are price sensitive. They may think 12 weeks paid maternity leave is great until the realize that their cost will go up to pay for that service. Plus, many of these workers work more than one job. It is unlikely in any scheme that they would get the pay from both jobs while on maternity leave.

  91. Rhett, that’s not a reason to get bennies from a firm; that’s a (potential) rationale for using government to mandate particular forms of compensation.

    As for irrationality, who are you to say? We’re not talking about mentally ill people here. In what contexts do you/we have the right to judge such things, to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to make such “mistakes”, and we should try to use govt to remedy/avoid mistakes. “Paternalism”– by purportedly “highly rational third parties” (aren’t they always?)– is always something that is imposed to be imposed on others; none of us imagines that we should be treated that way; and most/all of us are (deeply) offended when people try to do this to us– whatever their claims to “higher rationality”.

    “Behavioral economics” points to a handful of examples where people struggle to pick objectively better choices in some contexts (although I’m not sure if that relates to your hypothetical). Broadening things out: many people would choose Z over X; others would choose or X over Z. What business is that of mine? Who are we to judge that A is better than B or vice versa– and that it’s worth of using govt as an ethical and practical means to that end?

  92. My employer no longer allows us to carry over vacation days, and sick leave is “as needed” and to be worked out with your manager. So except for people in California, where state law requires it, you carry over nothing to the new year. is that becoming more common? From those who have posted, it sounds like most do get to carry over unused days.

  93. to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to make such “mistakes”,

    By that logic, you’d eliminate Social Security and the 401k/IRA* and if people want to open a brokerage account or buy a CD they can and if they don’t want to they don’t have to. Freedom!

    Now, how do you think that will work out?

    * Why should the government attempt to put it’s finger on the decision to consume now or save for later. That should be up to the individual unencumbered by government interference.

  94. By the logic of asking some of the relevant questions? I didn’t render a judgment per se; I asked when we should “go there”, especially when it imposes costs on those parties and untargeted folks as well.

    To your question/illustration on SS, we could talk about its amazing tax burden on the working poor (thousands of dollars per year on a family at the poverty line); its ridiculous average rate of return (zero– and *negative* for African-Americans since they tend to live shorter lives); and the partisan hacks who play political games rather than deal with one of the most important issues facing the more marginal in our society. But that’d be another thread…

    As to its paternalism, this gets back to my questions– and “the extent” to which we should be paternalistic toward some folks. This is not a 0/1 thing; there are a range of options. As in other countries, I think our society would tolerate a forced contribution toward an account (like a 401k) that they own and control to some extent (a range of [conservative/moderate] investments; restrictions on amounts that can be withdrawn at age X). I don’t think society would go for complete freedom in this realm, but there are many policy choices available there– in comparison to a lousy status quo.

  95. “So, we don’t “get” benefits, but we “purchase” them with wages.”

    Coming out of college, I was offered a job at a company that had cafeteria style benefits, which made this concept quite clear. As a single, childless person then, I found that attractive, and it also seemed fair

  96. Rhett – Hyundais are excellent cars. And that’s assuming I even have the analogy correct, which is a big “if.”

    I’m just saying learn more about it, and go to a big show where you can see a wide range. After that, go for it. Although I’d love to know how you’re going to sail to Nantucket and Maine and always ensure that it’s only in good weather. :)

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