IO Letter: Gov. Kasich Off Base on Paid Leave

On the campaign trail this month, Governor Kasich spoke to the issue of paid leave for new parents, suggesting new mothers should be allowed to work online from home, but that paid time off exacerbates income inequality between men and women.

Below is our full response, which was published in the Dispatch‘s Letters section on Tuesday:

Kasich is off base on paid parental leave

Governor Kasich has yet again shown that he is out of step with the needs of working families and wrong on the facts.

When asked about paid time off for new parents (“Paid leave hurts equal pay: Kasich,” January 9), Kasich argued that new mothers might fall behind in their careers, exacerbating the income gap between women and men as justification for opposing paid parental leave.

His argument is both wrong and wrongheaded.

Studies show women who take paid time off after having a baby actually earn higher incomes in future years than women who do not.  That’s because paid leave allows working moms to stay in their job and continue to advance in their careers.

However, when paid leave isn’t offered, mothers can be forced to choose between caring for their newborn and continuing to earn their paycheck. When faced with this choice, many women drop out of the work force, which means that when they resume their careers they do so with less experience and ultimately lower pay.

Further, paid parental leave shouldn’t be just for moms. In other countries, paid leave for new fathers is provided as a way to narrow the wage gap. That is, when dads leave work to care for a new child, their partners can return to work sooner, and continue advancing in their careers. And men who take parental leave are more likely to share caregiving responsibilities throughout a child’s life, giving their partners freedom to more actively pursue their careers.

And no one is arguing for an employer mandate, as Gov. Kasich suggested. Proposals currently pending in Congress would follow the lead of four states that already allow workers to pay into a universal insurance pool that provides partial wage replacement during caregiving leaves. These proposals can actually save employers money.

Finally, Kasich’s suggestion that new moms should telecommute ignores both the need for bonding time and the workplace realities of many women. Babies whose moms (or dads) are chained to a computer and telephone all day miss out on those critical benefits. And for the disproportionate share of service, retail and other low-wage workers who are women, telecommuting is not an option.

Terra Goodnight
Policy Director, Innovation Ohio