Family Matters Friday (A Day Early)

This morning as I was rushing about on my way to work I heard an interesting news clip. Right now in Norway 2 of the 5 members of the president’s cabinet are out on paternity leave. Paid paternity leave.

According to Reuters, one of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s “signature issues has been expanding the ‘father quota’ in Norway’s parental leave program, encouraging dads to stay home with their babies for at least 10 weeks at full pay.”

In Norway both parents automatically get two weeks paid leave after the birth of a child. More leave they can split between the two parents.

In Britain, men are entitled to two weeks leave at 90% pay.

Most developed nations, excluding the U.S., have some form of mandated paid parental leave. In the United States we have the Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA lets new parents take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, or new foster child. The law guarantees you will still have a job when you get back. Employers may require you to take all paid leave before granting a FMLA request. And they can count that time as part of your 12 weeks.

Now, I am basically opposed to more government regulation and intervention. But, if our families and children are truly the cornerstone of our society they should command more importance in our lives and legislation. Many parents in the United States can't or don't take leave for finiancial and social reasons. Consider the following statistics from momsrising.org:

  • Having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells" in the U.S. -- when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses.

  • In the U.S., 49% of mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave.

  • 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave -- so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.

But wouldn’t mandating paid maternity/paternity leave be too expensive? Especially at a time when everyone is concerned about the federal and state budget deficits? (Not to mention the budget deficits in individual families?)

Blogger Ruth Martin explains the benefits of providing paid leave:

Studies show that paid family leave after the birth of a child combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, lowers infant mortality by more than 20% and helps lower the wage gap between women and men.

In addition … the U.S. Surgeon General called paid family leave policies important for families and babies’ health – linking the ability of new moms to take paid leave to increased rates of breastfeeding.

Paid family leave isn’t just good for families – it also benefits employers. A recent study of the California Paid Leave program showed that most employers found that the Paid Family Leave had a positive effect on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover and employee morale.”

In addition to financial and health benefits, there is a more elusive, less measurable benefit of allowing parents the ability to be home. There are emotional and spiritual benefits that flow from being able to focus on the love and bonding of the family without the added worry of finances. It is our responsibility to do what we can to allow parents and children more time together.

Consider this idea as a step in the right direction: A law that incentivizes states to implement a voluntary insurance program for employees to receive 2 weeks paid leave for parents or grandparents at the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. This would be in addition to the current FMLA leave.

What Can I Do?

  • The U.S. Department of Labor is collecting data this year to assess how FMLA is working: Share how having or not having paid leave affected you.

  • Write to your state or federal representatives with your support for a more extensive maternity/paternity leave law.

1 comment:

  1. This was very interesting to me. Thanks for writing about it.