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Starting a new business is daunting. There are a thousand questions to figure out, from legal structure to taxes to hiring to office space. One of the biggest is how to budget for benefits that employees need — and that businesses like mine need to offer to compete for top talent. There are good solutions that help small businesses offer health insurance, retirement savings, and other key benefits, but there is simply no solution for paid family leave. It’s a huge gap.
We are a small team of 4 people, and so we can’t afford to provide paid leave for our employees on our own. But we know it’s essential to provide paid family leave benefits, because there is no greater asset to a consulting company than its people. Being unable to offer paid leave puts our small business at a real disadvantage, by comparison to larger nationwide or multinational employers, when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent.
So we decided to contribute a portion of our profits to a rainy day fund so that in a few years we can offer this benefit. In the meantime, we had to be frank with our team that we can only offer unpaid leave. That’s why we were so excited when the D.C. City Council introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act. It’s a great solution for small businesses like ours.
Our story shows why paid leave is so important to the businesses.
We’ve run the numbers, and our costs to pay into the system will be under $1,500 per year. That’s less than 0.02% of our total yearly revenue. Budgeting to pay this exceptionally modest amount into the public program on a consistent basis will be absolutely manageable for us — and it means that we don’t have to risk the financial future of our business for the weeks or months a team member is on leave.
Our story shows why paid leave is so important to the businesses, and especially the people, who call the District home. My business partner’s 2 girls were born in the District. He treasures the time he was able to spend home with each during the first few months of their lives as an opportunity to establish a solid child-parent bond and build a strong foundation for his family. Had his then-employer not offered paid leave, this chance would have been lost. I hope to begin a family myself in the next few years. A funding pool like the one envisioned by this legislation would make it more manageable for me to grow my family while we continue to grow our business.
Community leaders talk a lot about family values, but when it comes to making policy choices, too few actually value families. But the District is a national leader in advancing policy that invests in families, from near-universal health coverage for children to universal pre-K — both of which enjoy the strong support of our community’s businesses. The Universal Paid Leave Act is the logical next step. And frankly, it makes us proud to call the District home — as residents and as business owners.
Danielle Lewis is a Founder at Springboard Partners, where they use the power of communication to help nonprofits and foundations do more good. Lifelong DC resident.