Economy

Kasich Says Employers Should Be Free To Deny Workers Paid Family Leave

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich doesn’t think employers should be required to let their workers take paid time off for a new baby or serious illness.

At a town hall on Friday in Hampton, New Hampshire, he was asked what he thinks about paid family leave. Rather than a government mandate ensuring that all Americans can take paid leave, Kasich said instead it should be “up to employers to try to be creative about this,” reports The Columbus Dispatch.

Instead, he thinks it’s more important to help women work from home or simply stay home to care for children. “The one thing we need to do for working women is to give them the flexibility to be able to work at home online,” he said. “And we need to accommodate women who want to be at home, having a healthy baby and in fact being involved, however many years they want to take care of the family.”

His reasoning for putting an emphasis on teleworking and staying at home, rather than paid family leave, is supposedly because it will hurt their pay, he explained. “When women take maternity leave or time to be with the children, then what happens is they fall behind on the experience level, which means that the pay becomes a differential,” he said. “We need to give the tools for women to be able to continue to develop their experience so that we don’t continue with differentials between a man and a woman in the workplace.”

There are many factors that go into the gender wage gap, such as occupational segregation and discrimination. Kasich is right that the fact that women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to care for family is part of it, explaining about 10 percent of the overall gap. But paid leave actually helps mitigate that problem. A woman who gets 30 or more days of paid family leave is over 50 percent more likely to see her wages increase than a woman who got no paid time off. Women who take unpaid leave, meanwhile, are more likely to wind up in a different job and often end up with lower pay than their previous one.

Many American women, as well as men, end up having to take unpaid leave, given that just 12 percent are offered paid time off from work. That makes the U.S. an outlier around the world, where virtually every country guarantees paid maternity leave and a big number ensure paid paternity leave.

Yet while every Democratic presidential candidate backs the idea of the government ensuring that all workers can take paid leave, Marco Rubio is the only Republican candidate so far to put forward a proposal. Most others, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina, have taken the same stance as Kasich and said they don’t think the government should do anything.

Democrats have also agreed that Americans should be guaranteed paid sick leave when they or a family member has a more mild illness. But at a later town hall, Kasich said he didn’t know whether he supports paid sick days.