On Wednesday, April 13th, nationally-recognized speaker Jessica Shortall sat before a group of about fifty Connecticut residents gathered for an event entitled “Work. Worry. Repeat: Life Without Paid Leave” and told them that paid family and medical leave is good for businesses. Good for businesses. And Ms. Shortall, of all people, would know.

Jessica Shortall isn’t just an incredible public speaker- she also holds an MBA with honors from the University of Oxford and served as the first Director of Giving and Social Innovations at TOMS Shoes, building out the now-iconic One for One giving strategy. Additionally, Ms. Shortall played a founding role in Texas’ first statewide coalition of businesses advocating for LGBT rights in the state and now works as a consultant and strategist on workplace diversity. She understands businesses.

This understanding has enabled Ms. Shortall to clearly see all the ways in which paid leave would benefit business-owners.  She shared that workers, and millennials in particular, want inclusive workplaces in which their needs are acknowledged and met.  Offering paid leave is a way for businesses to attract the most driven and brightest workers. With paid leave programs, small businesses can better compete with larger businesses, drawing in the best employees.

Ms. Shortall also pointed out that paid leave doesn’t just allow businesses to attract top workers – it allows them to keep them. When workers don’t have access to paid leave, they are more likely to leave their jobs altogether should they require time off to care for their own health or the health of their loved ones. Paid leave improves employee retention, reducing high hiring and training costs. Furthermore, when workers with paid leave do return to work, they are more focused, allowing them to be more productive employees.

Ms. Shortall’s discussion of paid leave clearly demonstrated that paid leave is good for businesses. Moreover, local small business-owners (including Thyme and Season owner Josh Elliot and Petonito’s Pastry Shop owner Mark Petonito) have also been speaking out, making the exact same points as Ms. Shortall. Let’s trust the business experts within our community and beyond, and support paid leave— for employees, but also for employers.

Written by Dvora Walker