Nav: Home

Implementation of Oregon paid family leave to ensure equality critical, research finds

June 03, 2019

Oregon is considering a bill to implement paid family leave, House Bill 2005, following in the footsteps of Washington, which approved a similar policy in 2017.

Oregon Health and Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health researchers concluded that it's not just approving paid family leave that's important for employees -- how that policy is implemented to make it equitable for all employees is just as critical.

OHSU-PSU School of Public Health Assistant Professors Dawn Richardson, Julia Goodman and David Hurtado published "Employee Experiences with a Newly Adopted Paid Parental Leave Policy: Equity Considerations for Policy Implementation" in Health Equity's May edition.

The researchers partnered with Multnomah County to evaluate a new paid leave policy adopted in November of 2015. Their findings offer insight and guidance for organizations implementing or considering implementation of paid family leave as well as steps to ensure equity in employee access to and experience of paid leave.

"If Oregon approves paid family leave, we're hoping our work with Multnomah County can offer support to employers in Oregon to really think about how they carry out the policy," Richardson said. "Assuming it passes, this is a significant shift in employee benefits and there's not a lot of guidance on how to do this, and how to do this well."

The researchers found that the policy was successful in supporting employees in taking paid leave when adding a child to their family through birth, adoption, or fostering. Overwhelmingly, employees were pleased with the benefit and noted how important it was for their families.

But the researchers also found that some employees experienced inequity in the policy's implementation despite it being approved and accessible for all eligible county employees.

One participant, a woman of color, said she saw her experience of inequity replicated despite the new policy.

"Depending on the supervisor, someone gets something very generous and then a person in the next unit over gets not a lot," the participant commented. "This is kind of horrible for all of us to see that, to see this inequity, even though we have these great policies."

Another participant said she had three different supervisors while preparing to take family leave, which led to inequitable decisions.

"I feel like that supervision piece can make it extremely inequitable for people to experience their parental leave," the participant commented. "I had one plan with the first supervisor, which was very understanding, a very generous plan. And then that person left the week I went on leave. And suddenly I had this new person, and they didn't want to honor the plan that I had in place."

The researchers were quick to point out that these experience are not specific to Multnomah County and would very likely be the story in any similar organization. Despite the best intentions of policies like these, an explicit focus on equity is needed.

Richardson and Goodman said supervisory training is one key to achieving workplace equity. Supervisors need to be clear on what the policy entails and how to guide employees navigating paid leave and the blending together of multiple benefits.

"The culture of the workplace matters a lot," Richardson said. "How are families shown they are truly valued?"

Culture and environment influence how employees experience the policy. Factors driving experience include department size and resources, demographic makeup and the supervisor's attitude.

If employees perceive that their use of paid leave is burdensome on the employer, it could have negative implications on the employee's contribution to the workplace.

"The employees who felt most supported also felt passionate about their employer, felt committed, and returned to work in ways that facilitated better productivity," Richardson said.

As Oregon considers approving its own paid family leave policy, she added that much of the negative debate comes down to the burden of cost -- specifically on small businesses.

"The costs are the costs. But who do we as a society believe should pay those costs? And who benefits? Without paid leave, the costs are entirely on the shoulders of workers," she said.

Numerous studies show offering paid family leave benefits both the employee and employer in the long run, but the conversation hasn't transitioned past the upfront cost.

"We need to think about where we want to invest. And part of that investment is not just in adopting the policy, it's in training people," Richardson said. "It's in seeing the policy through."

Employers may struggle with the costs of providing these benefits, she added, but she, Goodman and Hurtado hope work like theirs can show in the long-term the cost is worth it.

Portland State University

Related Employees Articles:

A chemical investigation of employees -- How to distinguish a blue collar from a white one
A group of Russian and Kazakh scientists headed by prof Skalnyj from RUDN University (Moscow, Russia) analyzed the level of toxic and essential trace elements in hair of petrochemical workers involved in different technological processes.
Greater job satisfaction for transgender employees
Transgender individuals in the workplace can sometimes feel stigmatized, either through the actions and attitudes of their coworkers, or through their own fears of being treated as an 'other.' But recent research from Larry Martinez at Portland State University shows that the experiences of employees who transition genders is highly dependent on the interactions they have with their coworkers.
Curiosity can predict employees' ability to creatively solve problems, research shows
Employers who are looking to hire creative problem-solvers should consider candidates with strong curiosity traits, and personality tests may be one way to tease out those traits in prospective employees, new research from Oregon State University shows.
Attention, bosses: Why angry employees are bad for business
According to University of Arizona research, employees who are angry are more likely to engage in unethical behavior at work -- even if the source of their anger is not job-related.
Swiss employees do not hold back on cynical behavior
Every fourth employee regards promises made by the company they work for as having been broken and every third is not satisfied with their relationship to their superior and with their co-workers.
Networking can cut 2 ways for employers, employees
There may be more going on at the office happy hour than you thought.
Employees of medical centers report high stress and negative health behaviors
Several national surveys have found that approximately 15 to 20 percent of adults in the US will report high levels of stress.
Corporate social responsibility can backfire if employees don't think it's genuine
A new study looks at what happens when a company's employees view its efforts related to corporate social responsibility as substantive (perceived to be other-serving and genuinely aimed at supporting the common good) or symbolic (perceived as self-serving and performed primarily for reputation and to enhance profits).
Top news outlets see more risks than benefits in employees' use of social media
Jayeon Lee, assistant professor of journalism at Lehigh University, finds in a new study that news organizations are more concerned about the current social media environment than excited about it at least when it comes to their employees.
Fairness at work can affect employees' health
Employees' experiences of fairness at work can impact on their health, according to a new study involving the University of East Anglia.

Related Employees Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...