Self-proclaimed feminists love to advocate for universal paid family leave policies. Even Ivanka Trump has pledged to champion paid leave in the Trump Administration, but these policies stifle the advancement of women in the workplace. It’s important for conservative women to realize that “universal family leave” is nothing more than another government handout. As we know, government handouts always have unintended consequences.

Former President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law to give women access to unpaid leave following childbirth and protection from termination for this choice. A universal paid family leave policy creates government mandated time off work for parents to care for new children while still receiving employee benefits. This primarily helps young, low income women who can struggle to maintain a job during their child’s first few weeks of life.

Paid leave is a great way to assist young mothers, but when it is enacted by government mandate, it harms the people it intends to help.

When companies are forced to meet federal guidelines for paid leave, they cannot create flexible work plans that better address the needs of new, working moms. Not all women deal with childbirth the same way; some women cannot work at all following childbirth. Other women prefer working reduced hours or teleworking, other women do not want time off at all.

Mandated federal policy prevents employees from matching the needs of women directly. The policy assumes the government knows what leave is best for all women. It forces them to accept a leave plan that may not assist their future.

This is particularly harmful for women who work in the service industry. Employees who work in restaurants end up earning far less with paid leave, because they often earn minimum wage rather than a tipped income. Considering this industry is dominated by low income women who rely on tips, this federal policy prevents these women from maintaining their livelihood.

Similarly, women seeking promotion in their offices might prefer to tele-work or adjust their schedule to accommodate their child rather than taking six to 12 paid weeks off work. The “one size fits all” strategy for addressing paid leave prevents these women from advancing in their careers in a way that works for their lifestyle.

Even more damaging, when the government mandates employers offer a significant family paid leave option, employers are less likely to hire young women.

A survey of 500 managers by law firm Slater & Gordon published in The Guardian found, more than 40 percent of employers admitted they already feel weary about hiring young women. More than a quarter claimed they would rather hire men than women around the child bearing age. By mandating that employers provide paid leave, the federal government forces employers to question whether or not they want to deal with additional medical expenses and lost labor potentially associated with hiring young women.

Politicians in the United Kingdom and business owners in Canada have attempted to speak out regarding the impact of paid family leave on female hiring when mandated family leave legislation passed in these countries. Instead of being heard, these advocates were lambasted as being anti-woman.

Jasmine Budak explained in Canadian Business, “Employers can’t even complain. Coming out against parental benefits would be like mourning sweatshops and sexual harassment. The rare employer who publicly voices the management’s predicament faces a torrent of criticism.”

To be clear, the idea that women cannot have children and be successful employees is archaic and sexist. That does not mean that the perception does not exist.

Rather than a federal, “one size fits all” policy that stifles flexibility in the workplace and increases discriminatory hiring, the government should create an economy that encourages companies to offer paid leave plans that work for their business.

In the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Congress provided a tax credit for employer provided paid family leave. As a result, companies across the country such as Starbucks and CVS Health have created paid family leave plans to incentivize workers to join their company.

Furthermore, employees have more latitude to choose employment opportunities based on their family leave policy; if a plan does not work for a woman who hopes to become a new mother, she can negotiate or choose another employment option that better suits her needs.

Giving women a break from work following childbirth makes sense. Companies should provide this benefit, but the federal government should not force them too. When paid family leave becomes a federal mandate, it hurts the women most in need of assistance. In fact, it contributes to a culture of keeping women behind in the workplace. While the idea of government mandated paid family leave might be enticing, women cannot be fooled by these false promises.

NATALIA C
CABINET