The United States lags behind the vast majority of other nations around the globe in terms of pro­viding basic, family-​​friendly work­place poli­cies, such as paid vaca­tion time, according to a new book by Alison Earle, a prin­cipal research sci­en­tist at the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences’ Insti­tute for Urban Health Research at North­eastern University.

Con­trary to pop­ular opinion among busi­ness exec­u­tives, Earle also found that work­place ben­e­fits, such as paid sick leave and a weekly day of rest, boost the com­pet­i­tive­ness of com­pa­nies and don’t neg­a­tively affect job creation.

Raising the Global Floor: Dis­man­tling the Myth that We Can’t Afford Good Working Con­di­tions for Everyone, debunks the pop­ular mis­con­cep­tion among busi­ness leaders that pro­viding family-​​friendly ben­e­fits will only raise the cost of labor, reduce hiring capa­bil­i­ties and diminish a company’s impact in the global marketplace.

Our research found no evi­dence of long-​​term eco­nomic gains if workers had no access to paid parental leave, paid annual leave, the right to rea­son­able work hours, and many other basic pro­tec­tions that would sig­nif­i­cantly improve the quality of their lives,” Earle said.

Earle and coau­thor Jody Hey­mann, founding director of the Insti­tute for Health and Social Policy at McGill Uni­ver­sity, based their research on an exam­i­na­tion of the labor laws for 190 of the world’s 192 United Nations coun­tries in what was the most com­pre­hen­sive study of working con­di­tions worldwide.

Before joining the North­eastern fac­ulty, Earle was a research sci­en­tist at the Har­vard School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard University.

For her most recent study, Earle found that of the world’s top 15 economies, of which the United States is number one, 14 offer paid sick leave; 13 pro­vide paid leave for new mothers; and 11 pro­vide paid leave to care for children’s health needs. The United States does not require employers to pro­vide any of these ben­e­fits to workers.

Over the past decade, some of the world’s most com­pet­i­tive com­pa­nies are also those that have family-​​friendly work­place poli­cies, such as mater­nity leave, breast­feeding breaks, wage pre­miums and manda­tory days of rest, the authors found.

We found no evi­dence that pro­viding basic pro­tec­tions like paid parental leave and paid vaca­tion leave results in job loss,” Earle said. “Most of the coun­tries with the lowest unem­ploy­ment rates over the last ten years guar­antee workers a full set of labor stan­dards. The out­lier, as is the case when you look at long-​​term com­pet­i­tive­ness, is the United States.”

In the long run, pro­viding time for an employee to recoup from an ill­ness, bond with a new­born child, or take a sick child to the doctor, would actu­ally ben­efit employers, Earle said. In many cases, she said, employees return to work more quickly, take less total time off and are less likely to spread their ill­ness to co-​​workers when they have paid leave. In addi­tion, family-​​friendly poli­cies such as max­imum over­time laws can increase worker productivity.

Earle recently addressed law­makers in the nation’s cap­ital with the hopes of per­suading them to pass the Healthy Fam­i­lies Act. The bill calls for employers with 15 or more workers to pro­vide them with a min­imum seven days of paid sick leave per year.

The idea is to pro­vide pol­i­cy­makers with the infor­ma­tion they need to move for­ward on paid leave mea­sures,” Earle said. “The key ques­tion they have is whether these poli­cies are eco­nom­i­cally fea­sible. Our find­ings say the answer is a clear Yes.”

To learn more about the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research, please visit: http://​www​.north​eastern​.edu/​b​o​u​v​e​/​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​I​U​HR/