Paid parental leave is a hot topic these days—especially here at Working Mother. Our campaign for paid parental leave in the U.S. is heating up (sign our petition here), and we just hosted an important Tweet Chat on the topic, partnered by the National Partnership for Women and Families, which commissioned a groundbreaking new study—just released.
The study, Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public, was conducted by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. “While we have known for a long time about the maternal and infant health benefits of leave policies, we can now link paid family leave to greater labor force attachment and increased wages for women,” says study author Linda Houser, an affiliate fellow of the Center for Women and Work and assistant professor at Widener University. She adds that paid parental leave leads to “reduced spending by businesses in the form of employee replacement costs and by governments in the form of public assistance.”
The study reveals these and other findings:
• Women who report taking paid leave are more likely to be working 9 to 12 months after a child’s birth than are those who report taking no leave at all (“non-leave takers”).
• Paid family leave increases wages for women with children. Women who report leaves of 30 or more days are 54 percent more likely to report wage increases in the year following the child’s birth than are women who take no leave at all.
• Women who return to work after a paid leave have a 39 percent lower likelihood of receiving public assistance and a 40 percent lower likelihood of food stamp receipt in the year following the child’s birth, when compared to those who return to work and take no leave at all.
• Men who return to work after a paid family leave have a significantly lower likelihood of receiving public assistance and food stamps in the year following the child’s birth, when compared to those who return to work and take no family leave at all.
Except for a handful of states, there is no paid parental leave policy in the U.S. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires eligible employees who work for a company with a minimum of 50 workers to be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. But without a federal mandate for paid family leave, employees are resigned to take sick days, holidays, vacation days, disability insurance and/or paid or unpaid leave to care for personal or family health problems.
As states like California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island take the lead in creating disability programs that offer compensation for wages lost during and immediately after pregnancy, more states, including Washington, are considering adopting these paid family leave programs.
What with our changing workforce demographics, the work-family balance that new parents are looking for and the growing need for flexibility in the workplace, it’s about time the U.S. adopted a national policy for paid parental leave.
Think it’s time that the U.S. offered paid parental leave? We sure do!
Watch Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans and workingmother.com Editor Helen Jonsen discuss this on PBS' To The Contrary here.