It’s Time For Standardized Paid Family Leave In America

Passed twenty-five years ago by Bill Clinton, The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) remains the only legislation aimed at helping maintain work-life balance. However, it's guaranteed twelve weeks of job-protected leave-- to help workers recover from a serious medical condition, provide care for a seriously ill family member, or care for a new child-- are unpaid.

Emphasis on unpaid. Emphasis on twenty-five years ago.

In short, this Act is in desperate need of an update, especially for the benefit of new parents. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America currently remains the only country in the developed world that does not require employers to offer paid leave for new parents.

And as of 2017, only five states- California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia- have enacted laws offering paid family leave. These programs however are not perfect as they only provide partial wage replacement up to a designated cap.

What is supposed to be a wonderful time in new parents’ lives is being shadowed by financial burdens and stress. In fact, a Council of Contemporary Families study found that in other developed countries, parents are in general happier than non-parents; while in America, they found the exact opposite.

Because at the end of the day, it's coming down to money versus their child. And as the hospital bills roll in and as the cost of childcare adds up, parents are having that decision (sadly) made for them. And on top of that, when parents return to work, they’re faced with weeks of lost pay and the need to hire a nanny or find a daycare (which is can be ridiculously expensive). So not only are parents having to deal with the emotional process of leaving their child for an extended period of time, but now they’re also being drowned in bills and financial stress.

Related: Maternity Leave in the U.S.

All because of America’s obsession with the wildly outdated notion of the “American Dream,” that if people can work hard enough, they’ll be able to succeed. Yeah, okay. America, please wake up. We have to stop placing value on just individualism and business, while letting family and the future impact of a child go by the wayside. If we want the generations of the future to be well cared for, well educated and good members of society, then standardized paid family leave is the answer.

And all we have to do is look at the success of other developed countries, because this genuinely is possible. My sister is currently employed in America, but for a German company and she was guaranteed paid maternity leave, with two extra weeks added on for the C-section she ended up needing. See here a successful business caring about their employees in a way that so very few American companies do.

 

In the end, the fact that this is still an issue in America today is unbelievable. With overwhelming support by the population as a whole, both Democrats and Republicans, there is no reason for a lack of standardization in paid family leave.