By Kei Tsuzuki & Molly Luethi, Albuquerque business owners
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As small business owners for over a decade, we strongly support Senate Bill 11, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, understanding the positive effects paid family and medical leave would have not only on our workforce but also on our bottom line.
Coming out of the Covid years, we know that we, along with countless other small business owners, are weighing significant concerns: how to recover the financial health of our businesses, finding and retaining our employees, and reevaluating work-life balance for ourselves and our employees.
Starting with work/life balance, it’s no secret that workforce expectations have changed coming out of the pandemic. We find our employees putting their own physical and mental health and family concerns before work priorities. Though at times frustrating for a business owner, there is a lesson there for us to learn: work is not everything.
With this reality check, it’s not surprising, then, that finding and retaining employees has gotten harder. We hear this from our friends who run bakeries, gift stores, restaurants and even law firms. So, at Kei & Molly Textiles, when we invest in training employees who want to work for us, we feel incredibly loyal to the staff who stay on. It breaks our hearts when a worker comes down with a serious health issue that takes them out of the workforce. We often hold positions for 1-3 months to allow people to heal before we look to replace them. Looking through a purely economic lens, rehiring an already trained employee is so much more cost effective than hiring someone brand new.
And so to finances…though we allow workers with serious illnesses to take time off, we currently cannot afford to do so with full pay. But paid family and medical leave provided in SB 11 would change that by creating a shared fund. The cost to us to participate would be $5 for every $1,000 we pay in wages. That’s the cost of a cup of coffee. To cover most of our employees, that means we would pay the equivalent of 2-3 cups of coffee a month per staff member, or under $200 a year. We can afford that.
What we as small business owners cannot afford is shouldering the full cost of paying employees their salaries if they need extended time off for serious medical reasons. We hear some opponents say businesses don’t want to be forced by the government into providing paid family and medical leave; they want the choice to do it themselves…or not. The reality is, though, if we don’t have a system that requires participation by businesses, this program wouldn’t work. Under SB 11, the Department of Workforce Solutions will provide the administrative services and managing of the shared fund that allows this all to work, taking the burden off small business owners.
In short, we see this as a no-brainer! With an affordable cost, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act would allow us to take care of our employees in their time of need, saving our business money and retaining our best workers in these changing times.
Kei Tsuzuki and Molly Luethi are two social entrepreneurs and owners of Kei & Molly Textiles, LLC in Albuquerque, NM.