America’s lack of mandated comprehensive paid family leave is, quite frankly, stupid. Robust family leave plans have been shown to improve children’s health and increase women’s employment rates. We’re one of only a handful of countries to lack a federally mandated family leave policy; the others are Suriname, Papua New Guinea, and a few South Pacific Island Nations.
The need for paid leave is more urgent than ever, no matter what the composition of the family unit.
In nearly 50% of two-parent households, both parents work full-time jobs. The necessary recovery time for the mother and baby to reach optimal health is a minimum of 6 months. Yet, most women have to return to work just two weeks after childbirth. In California and New Jersey, mothers with state-level paid parental leave saw an increased labor force participation in the months surrounding childbirth and a 6-9% increase in the average weekly work hours of employed mothers with children.
Paid family leave for fathers is typically more limited than paid leave for mothers, but lengthened paternity leave has shown increased father engagement and bonding, improved health and development outcomes for children, and increased gender equity at home and in the workplace. It’s clear that families benefit when both parents, irrespective of gender, are supported in raising their newborn children. We need to implement paid family leave policies with gender neutral terms that do not undervalue any parent, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Single-mother households make up 21% of families in the U.S., 30% of which are living in poverty, and experience a decline in their income after having a baby. This is an example of how a lack of a national Paid Family Leave policy widens gender and economic disparity. Mothers in the workforce are typically penalized for having children, further widening gender disparities and subsequently the gender pay gap. Inaccessible paid leave is one reason there is a decline in women joining the labor force.
There are economic benefits for paid family leave. Studies show paid family leave has a positive effect on business productivity, profitability, and even employee morale. Paid family leave for all parents has also been shown to result in employee retention increasing, and costly turnover decreases.
And while the conversation around paid leave tends to focus on new parents, today almost three-quarters of workers who use their Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave use it for a purpose outside of having a new child. 55% used it to recover from their own illness, and 18% used it to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, whether that was a parent, spouse, or child. 27.8% of FMLA caregiver leaves are taken by workers tending to their seriously ill children. It is unfair to force Americans to worry about keeping their job when their loved ones are enduring such difficult times.
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Problems to be Solved
- America’s lack of a paid family leave policy results in negative impacts on health, women’s employment rate, and family cohesion.
- A lack of a paid family leave policy forces many single parents—especially mothers—into poverty.
It’s embarrassing and unconscionable that in the most advanced country in the world we don’t account for something as basic as needing to spend time with your child when he or she is born. This drives mothers out of the workforce prematurely and impedes healthy development of infants, which is something we all pay for. We need to catch up to the civilized world and mandate paid family leave.
- Create a federally mandated paid family leave policy
As President, I will...
- Implement a comprehensive federal Paid Family Leave plan that provides the ability for all families, regardless of make up, the time to heal and bond with their child.
- Guarantee 6 months Paid Family Leave for all parents, making this accessible to all families and employees in the U.S.
- Offer tax breaks for employers who offer 12 months of paid leave for single parents.
- Ensure this policy applies to the addition of a new child by birth, adoption, or foster care.