Washington, D.C.– Despite a strong economy, millions of Americans struggle daily to make ends meet and to balance the demands of work and family life. Against this backdrop, the Bipartisan Policy Center today announced the launch of a new Task Force on Paid Family Leave.
The task force aims to forge an effective national paid family leave policy—one that is equal to the difficult realities of our time and designed to ease the burden on working American families without undermining the competitiveness of American firms. It is co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, and former U.S. Representative Mary Bono.
Today, 25 years after passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, only 15 percent of American workers have access to a defined paid family leave benefit. As a result, it is estimated that one in four working women return to their jobs as early as 10-14 days after giving birth, putting their own health and that of their infants at risk. The challenges are especially acute for low-wage workers, only 5 percent of whom are currently covered by employer-provided paid leave policies and who are even less likely to be able to afford quality infant care.
A new national paid family leave policy is also important for America’s continued economic success, which depends on the productivity and participation of its workforce, and on nurturing the health and well-being of the next generation. Studies show that employees with access to paid family leave are far less likely to drop out of the labor force or to become dependent on government assistance programs.
“Parents face difficult trade-offs these days and too many are not able to make the choices they believe will ensure the best outcomes for their children,” said Santorum. “I am increasingly concerned about the long-term impact of millions of kids not getting a good start in life.”
“I look forward to working with this diverse and dedicated group of colleagues to advance an issue that has growing support from Democrats and Republicans alike,” said Dodd. “More and more lawmakers are hearing from their constituents that the realities for working Americans have changed and national policy needs to catch up.”
“Paid family leave is an essential component of ensuring that women have equal opportunities in the workplace,” said Contreras-Sweet. “It’s usually women who have to make the hard choices between taking care of loved ones and pursuing professional success. Our economy benefits when everyone has a chance to contribute to their full potential.”
“We know that paid family leave doesn’t solve all the economic and social problems facing Americans today,” said Bono. “But it can make the critical difference, especially for low-wage workers, between staying on track or falling further behind at particularly vulnerable junctures in life. When so many families are facing such enormous challenges, it’s the least we can do.”
The task force will work in coming months to develop a policy roadmap for bipartisan, common-sense solutions that support America’s working families and promote America’s economic success.