The ability to offer paid leave is essential for small businesses to compete with larger ones, but microbusinesses and the self-employed should have a seat at the table during legislative negotiations, a group of stakeholders told federal lawmakers in a March 8 open letter.
The letter was penned by members of the Small Business Ecosystem Group, a cohort of 14 businesses and organizations including Etsy, Pinterest, Eventbrite, Patreon, the National Association of Women’s Business Owners, the National Small Business Association, NextGen Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
The group commended U.S. House of Representative members for joining a bipartisan working group on the issue in its letter, and offered support for paid leave in general.
“America’s small businesses employ nearly half the country’s workers with self-employed business owners making up 81% of these businesses. They are a critical element to the economic vitality of communities across America,” the group wrote. “We know the ability to secure paid leave for self-employed business owners or the ability to offer paid leave to employees is important for small businesses to compete with larger employers. This is especially true in a tight labor market where policies like paid leave help to attract the talent needed to grow a business.”
The group said it was crucial, however, that “the voice of small business — including the self-employed and microbusiness — is reflected in this policy discussion.”
“As your work begins,” the letter concluded, “we look forward to the opportunity to work together with your offices to ensure that the small business employer perspective is a part of this conversation.”
Several employer members of the group, including Etsy and Pinterest, offer their own paid family and medical leave benefits. Pinterest provides up to 26 weeks for new parents, including up to 12 weeks of additional leave for parents with babies in the NICU.
The bipartisan task force on paid family leave, led by Reps. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., and Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., and flanked by four other legislators, formed recently in an effort to create bipartisan legislation that both parties could support. It arose early this year after a series of failed attempts from both sides of the aisle to advance a paid leave policy.
Separately, the Biden administration is still looking to tackle paid family leave, after efforts in recent years were shot down. In his FY 2024 budget, proposed March 9, the president included a carve-out for a “national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program,” that would provide up to 12 weeks of leave for the birth of a child, illness, caregiving and more.