American Families Need A Paid Family Leave Program
Families are strengthened when new parents can focus on caring for their child. Kids who are fed, sung to, and cared for by their parents early in life grow up happier, healthier, and more successful. Couples who can focus on raising and nurturing their baby together–instead of financial stresses–are more likely to stay married.
Unfortunately, this is not an opportunity that most American families have. Only 1-in-5 American workers has paid family leave, even though research shows that paid parental leave is overwhelmingly beneficial for parents, children, and society in general.
Two-thirds of workers can’t afford to take even two weeks of family leave. Most new mothers in America go back to work almost immediately after giving birth, despite doctors recommending they wait at least six weeks to heal their bodies and bond with their baby.
Fathers are getting little to no time off to help care for their new baby and mother. Marriages are strained, and parents are forced to put their kids in daycare much earlier than we all know is best.
As a country, we can do better for American families and for our children. And doing better by them will also strengthen our small businesses and economy.
A National Family Leave Program Strengthens Small Business
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires eligible employers to provide certain workers unpaid family leave; however, unlike nearly all other industrialized nations, the U.S. does not have national standards on paid family or sick leave, despite strong public support. 3-in-4 American voters support a national paid family and medical leave policy that covers all workers.
In the most comprehensive study of small businesses in states with family leave, the Center for Economic and Policy Research found small business owners overwhelmingly support these programs. 90% of employers reported that profitability and productivity improved or remained the same after family leave, and 99% said it had a positive or no effect on workplace morale.
We all will benefit from a national family leave program, and society should share the cost with businesses–especially small businesses–to ensure parents and children can finally realize this benefit.
Benefits of Paid Family Leave
Creating Strong Family Units:
Paid family leave allows working parents to bond with their new babies, contribute to healthier child development, and create stronger family units–without having to worry about unpaid bills piling up.
Boosting Small Business & Economic Stability:
Contrary to concerns that family leave policies burden businesses, studies indicate that they actually benefit the economy. By failing to offer a national program, we place the burden of paying for family leave entirely on the companies that can, and disadvantage small businesses that cannot afford the costs on their own.
Additionally, family leave reduces the reliance on public assistance programs, as individuals are better equipped to manage their own caregiving responsibilities without financial strain. We all will benefit from a national family leave program, and society should share the cost with businesses–especially small businesses–to ensure parents and children can finally realize this benefit.
Reducing Health Disparities:
Without adequate family leave, parents return to work prematurely, sacrificing their own health or that of their children. In the United States, 1 in 4 women return to work within two weeks of giving birth. Proper rest, recovery, and support during life-altering events like childbirth can mitigate postpartum complications and improve maternal and infant health.
Additionally, family leave enables individuals to seek necessary medical care, leading to earlier interventions and improved health outcomes in the long run. Studies from states that have offered family leave for over a decade show that paid family leave programs are associated with better health outcomes among children, especially those from low income families.
Keeping Women in the Workforce:
When both women and men have access to family leave, it eliminates the burden of childrearing that is disproportionately placed on women. Encouraging dads to take leave allows them to take an active role in caregiving and strengthens family bonds. It gives them a pause from work to be with their child.
When women are supported in their transition to motherhood, it enhances their ability to remain in the workforce, reducing the gender pay gap and contributing to a more equitable society. Paid family leave also increases labor force participation, and women who have paid leave are 40% more likely to return to work after having a child than women without access to paid leave.
A Better Future for American Families
The positive impact that a Paid Family Leave program will have on American families can’t be understated.
Mothers will no longer feel the need to leave their new child in the care of someone else for the sake of paying rent. Nor will they need to rush through their recovery process, possibly harming their bodies. Husbands will be able to spend more time with their new family, bond with their child, and help their wife rest and recover.
Our family units will be stronger; our economy will be strengthened; our children’s future will be brighter.
Every year we wait, millions of American families are struggling unnecessarily. It is time for America to take advantage of a national paid family leave program and take care of American families.