One Country Project Conducts Wisconsin Statewide Survey on a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy
Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) is essential for the well-being of individuals and families, the stability of the workforce, and the overall health of the economy. It promotes fairness, gender equality, and work-life balance while reducing the burden on public assistance programs. PMFL refers to policies that enable workers to receive compensation when they take extended time off work for qualifying reasons, such as bonding with a new child, recovering from one’s own serious illness or caring for a seriously ill loved one. These situations often require dedicated time and attention, and without PMFL, employees may be forced to choose between their jobs and their family’s well-being. Unfortunately, In the U.S., only 25 percent of workers have access to PFML through their employers.
The need for PMFL is not limited to one state but should be addressed at both the state and federal levels to ensure a comprehensive and equitable solution for all workers. Yet, there has been little movement on a federal paid family leave act, so states are taking the lead to ensure workers in their communities have the protections they and their families need. In California, where a state paid leave program has been in place since 2004, 90% of employers or more report positive or neutral effects of the program on turnover, productivity, profitability and performance and morale.
Other states who have passed PFML programs include New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, with similar bills being introduced in Maine, Nebraska, Northa Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin — where voters have wavered between electing Republicans and Democrats since at least the mid-20th century — PFML programs were a hot topic in the latest legislative session.
Currently, in Wisconsin, the state offers two weeks of unpaid leave but requires the employer to maintain health care coverage. In February, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers proposed a two-year budget which would implement paid family and medical leave for public- and private-sector employees. Evers’ budget would make 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave available to employees in the private and public sectors starting Jan. 1, 2025. The governor’s office pushed the proposed budget by noting the program would pay for itself by 2026. Unfortunately, the provision was not passed in this year’s legislative session and died in May, but the Governor, local organizations, and key policymakers are still fighting the battle for PFML programs in the state.
This week, One Country Project (OCP) released a poll with Forbes Tate Partners focused on voters’ opinions of a national paid family and medical leave policy. Overall, the poll — an online state-wide survey amongst 504 Wisconsinites — found widescale support for government investment. Topline findings from the survey include:
- A strong majority (78%) of Wisconsin voters support creating a national paid family and medical leave program, with strong support across parties.
- A majority (61%) of Wisconsin voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a national paid leave policy, while only 12% would be less likely.
- Wisconsin voters believe that more people will be able to stay in their jobs even if they or their family face a medical challenge and employee morale will increase if there were a national paid leave policy.
- There is little differentiation across the top messages for supporting the policy, with the top testing themes including helping families, keeping people financially stable, and economic benefits.
- Wisconsin voters describe paid family and medical leave as a pro-family, pro-work policy for our country.
- They want to hear from small business owners, labor leaders, and parents about changes to national paid leave policy.