- A recent Paychex survey found that 47 percent of respondents would support a program requiring paid family leave.
- Support for a mandatory paid family leave program varied by size of company, age of respondents, and geography.
- Respondents were mixed when it came to who should design such a program and how it should be funded.
States taking on paid family leave programs
New York state became the latest to pass a paid family leave program on January 1, 2018, joining New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California. The state of Washington and the District of Columbia have also passed paid family leave legislation that will allow eligible employees to take paid leave starting in 2020. Paid family leave generally offers job-protected paid time off with full or partial wage replacement to employees so they can take leave for covered reasons that may include to care for seriously ill family members, bond with a new child, or address needs arising from a family member being called to active military duty. While New York and other states implement paid family leave legislation, it also remains a topic of interest at the federal level.
Mandatory paid family leave legislation generally runs concurrently with the protections of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.
In light of the paid family leave proposals across the country and at the federal level, Paychex recently gauged business owners’ sentiments around such legislation in its Small Business Snapshot, which polled 257 principals (owner, founder, co-founder, CEO) of U.S. companies with 2-500 employees.
Support for paid family leave varied by company size, respondent age, and geographic location
Just under half — 47 percent — of survey respondents would support paid family leave legislation. Of those who would supported it, 29 percent strongly supported such a program, while 19 percent indicated some support. Thirty-five percent were neutral. Eighteen percent said they would not support legislation requiring paid family leave.
Notable demographic differences for support also emerged. Larger businesses polled were more apt to be in favor of mandatory paid family leave:
- 78 percent of companies with 100-500 employees;
- 78 percent of companies with 20-99 employees; and
- 45 percent of companies with two-19 employees would support mandatory paid family leave.
Age made a difference, as well. Millennial respondents (those between the ages of 18 and 34) were much more likely to support mandatory paid family leave than their older peers:
- 71 percent of those 18-34;
- 59 percent of those 35-49; and
- 32 percent of those 50 and older.
- Half of millennials said they would strongly support paid family leave.
The survey confirmed a geographical slant, as respondents located in more progressive regions indicated more support for paid family leave:
- 55 percent in the northeast, 53 percent in the west, 49 percent in the south, and 30 percent in the Midwest said they would support mandatory paid family leave.
- 20 percent in the Midwest do not support mandatory paid family leave.
- 48 percent of Midwestern respondents were neutral.
Interestingly notable, gender did not seem to be a factor in respondents' level of support for paid family leave.
Who should design paid family leave programs, and how should they be funded?
When it comes to who should develop and mandate paid family leave programs:
- 43 percent of respondents indicated the federal government should own such programs;
- 40 percent pointed to private employers should be responsible; and
- 17 percent indicated it should be left up to state governments.
Survey respondents who support mandatory paid family leave were divided on the funding source:
- Tax incentives for companies that voluntarily provide paid family leave – 26 percent;
- Pretax payroll contributions from employees – 26 percent;
- A combination of pretax contributions from both employers and employees – 15 percent;
- New or higher taxes on higher income people – 12 percent;
- A combination of new or higher taxes on higher income people and corporations – 11 percent;
- Pretax payroll contributions from employers – 9 percent; or
- New or higher taxes on corporations – 1 percent.
Survey reveals many opinions and variables, but no consensus
While all employers want to do right by their employees, which includes helping them to the best of their ability during times of need, results from this survey reflect mixed sentiments on the subject of mandatory paid family leave, including who should fund and who should design and enforce such programs. With only limited movement at the federal level, individual states will likely continue to propose paid family leave programs. Whether and when legislation might be passed at the national level remains to be seen.
About the Paychex Small Business Survey
Data included in the Paychex Small Business Snapshot was taken from the results of the Paychex Small Business Survey, administered by Bredin, a third-party research firm specializing in small business. The survey was conducted online between November 14, 2017 and November 23, 2017 and polled 257 principals of U.S. companies with 2-500 employees.