What About Paid Family Leave?

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world without government subsidized paid family leave (1). Though the majority of American voters support the idea, only an average of 14% of all civilian workers in the U.S. are guaranteed paid leave, and many aren’t even guaranteed to still have their jobs upon returning to work. This past week, Senator Tammy Duckworth publicly announced her second pregnancy, which will make her the first senator in U.S. history to give birth while serving in office.

 

In the spirit of her widely-celebrated announcement, the Senator took the time to make a speech about the necessity of significant parental leave and child care policy reform. Duckworth argued that, not only is our country behind most of the world in having adequate PFL (paid family leave) for its citizens, but also that the lack of these policies is detrimental to the health of our workforce and the economy,

 

“That hurts our country. When people are forced to drop out of the workforce to take care of their children, our economy loses some of our best and brightest workers -- and those workers lose out on a paycheck and any wage increases or promotions that might have come down the line.”

 

Medical evidence suggests that mothers who are offered paid parental leave by their employers have a lower likelihood of suffering from postpartum depression, and companies with more extensive PFL policies report higher levels of productivity and lower rates of turnover. A non-profit organization, Paid Leave For the United States, reports that the vast majority of American parents do not even get one day off of work after delivering their child, and about 1 in 4 new mothers have to return to work just 10 days after giving birth. The cost of childcare and college tuition is on the rise; however, millions of low-income parents are being forced to choose between spending time with their children and keeping their jobs. Since many higher-paying jobs offer extensive PFL benefits, this issue largely affects citizens from lower income demographics.

 

In spite of this bleak reality, only 35% of adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center supported putting the issue at the top of the government’s agenda, making it the least prioritized social issue in a list of 21 national concerns (2). A growing number of adults are opting to put off having children in order to prioritize their careers, showing that PFL is not only a necessity for hopeful parents, but also a right. Senator Duckworth’s speech this week reminded Americans just how important and far-reaching PFL is for our workforce,

 

"Parenthood isn't just a women's issue, it's an economic issue and an issue that affects all parents -- men and women alike."

 

(1) CNN Article for more info:

http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/05/opinions/paid-leave-fmla-congress-tammy-duckworth-opinion/index.html

 

(2) Pew Research Center

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/23/access-to-paid-family-leave-varies-widely-across-employers-industries/