Paid Family Leave Pays: Let's Buy in This Year

Monday, January 9, 2012

This Congress is likely to once again reject paid-family leave, even though California and New Jersey show it's a good idea. Susan Rose says we need new leaders in 2012 to help struggling parents.

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Perils of Unpaid Leave

Authors interviewed 64 parents and filled the report with testimonies about the perils of taking unpaid leave: debt or bankruptcy; illness; post-partum depression; termination, demotion or reduced pay upon returning to work.

One of the most significant findings was the relationship of childbirth to poverty. Authors cited Amy Rynell's finding that 8.6 percent of households enter into poverty when a child is born, a figure rising to 24.6 percent when a woman heads the household.

Authors showed how cost-effective paid-leave programs are in other countries and how lagging the United States appears internationally.

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor, meanwhile, indicate that only 11 percent of American workers have paid family leave available to them. In some cases, parents can use paid sick leave or vacation time for parental leave.

But only 67 percent of U.S. workers have paid sick days, 40 percent have temporary disability and more than a quarter lack paid vacation days. Access to these benefits varies widely.

A 2010 nationwide survey of registered voters found that 76 percent of respondents favored laws on paid family leave.

These are tenuous times for working women and their families. By some reckonings, the middle class disappeared in 2011. Lawmakers need to do more.


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Susan Rose is a former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women and is retired from the Santa Barbara Country Board of Supervisors. Currently, she serves as vice chair of the Santa Barbara Human Rights Watch Committee.

For more information:

Proposed expansions of Family Medical Leave Act:

Human Rights Watch report:

Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California; The National Council for Research on Women:

Causes of Poverty, Findings from Recent Research, by Amy Rynell:

It's Official: Government Stats Show the Middle Class Is Dead:

1 COMMENTS | Login or Sign Up to post comments



Paid Sick Days Can Prevent a Real 'Contagion'


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I really, really, really believe in paid leaves for women. It reaps rewards for children, women, and workplaces! Women should not have to give up their jobs and advancement and babies should not have to give up their mothers in the first year of their lives. This is so important to everyone’s wellbeing.
I sent another comment about this expanding on this view, and it has not been ublished here, I hope I did not offend as I did not intend to do so.