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What’s going on with Paid Leave in the U.S.?

What’s going on with Paid Leave in the U.S.?

Where We're at with Paid Leave

The U.S. is currently the only developed country in the world that does not guarantee paid leave to parents of new children. This issue is particularly problematic because those who receive no pay during leave are more likely to be female, poorer, less educated, or younger than those who received at least some pay.

Benefits of Paid Leave

Paid leave results in real benefits to both mom and baby. Scholar Jody Heymanns review of the literature found that 80% percent of respondents who took paid leave reported that they were better able to care for a new baby. New moms who take paid leave are more likely to take the minimum doctor-recommended 6 to 8 weeks to recover from birth. And newborns whose mothers are able to take 12 weeks of leave are more likely to go for regular check-ups. States which have enacted paid leave see higher engagement by fathers. Simply put, paid leave pays off.

The Family Medical Leave Act

Currently, the only national policy around family leave is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees unpaid leave. It is now over a quarter-century old. About forty percent of American workers are not covered by FMLA, and many workers who are covered cannot afford to take unpaid leave. While this policy was a breakthrough in 1993, it is time for a paid leave policy.

Some traction is being made on a state-by-state level for change, with seven states now offering—or having plans to roll out—some form of paid leave: California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington state. Efforts are also being made to work toward a national standard for paid leave in the form of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act). This program would pool contributions to ensure that workers can draw earnings while on leave to care for a new child or a serious personal or family illness - because new babies aren’t the only ones who need care. Another proposal is for the Economic Security for New Parents Act, which would allow parents of a new child to receive Social Security benefits in order to help finance parental leave.

Industry Supports Paid Leave Changes

The private sector is also beginning to step in. More than 100 brand-name companies across a range of industries have announced new or expanded paid leave policies over the last three years. Many of these companies have found that paid leave promotes gender equity, demonstrates respect for employees, improves employee healthy, increases retention and enhances the company’s brand and reputation.

Giving Back

Still, despite these recent efforts, the reality remains that the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to paid leave. For Kabrita, whose mission involves supporting women and parents, it is unacceptable that the United States in the only industrialized country without a paid leave policy. We value inclusivity and diversity. Our mission is to empower parents to nourish their child with confidence. We want to support all women and parents in bringing their best selves to caregiving. As such, we want to support paid leave policies that help bring security—and confidence—to parents’ lives. That’s why, during the month of February, Kabrita will be donating 5% of all sales on to Family Values @ Work, in addition to a regular and ongoing monthly contribution.To find out more about the issue of paid leave, consider watching Jessica Shortall’s TED talk, The US needs paid family leave for the sake of its future. You can also watch the documentary Zero Weeks, which lays out the costs for all of us in this country’s paid leave crisis, and what to do about it.

[1] Paid family leave refers to partially or fully compensated time away from work for significant caregiving needs.