Americans overwhelmingly support the idea of paid family leave, whether to care for a new child, one’s own illness, or a sick family member. Republicans and Democrats have come a long way toward finding agreement on this issue, but Congress has yet to turn that growing consensus into actionable, bipartisan policy. BPC’s Task Force on Paid Family Leave seeks to take that next step.
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid family leave policy. Only 15 percent of employees have access to a defined paid family leave benefit. Many working parents of newborns return to work too early and millions struggle to balance their family’s health and wellbeing with the need to provide financial security.
Our commitment to progress on paid family leave is rooted in a shared sense that the current situation is detrimental:
To women, who still bear a disproportionate share of the burden of caring for young children and sick or elderly family members, even though their participation in the workforce is now nearly equal to that of men. Today, one in four working women return to their jobs as early as 10-14 days after giving birth. These mothers are at higher risk for post-partum depression and for leaving the workforce altogether.
To children, whose’ earliest experiences are not only critical for healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development but they also lay the foundation for their later success in learning and life. Several studies point to the benefits of paid family leave for early childhood development and infant well-being—reports find that a paid leave policy reduces infant mortality rates by as much as 10 percent.
To low-wage workers, who are even less likely to have paid leave benefits than the average American worker—the data suggest that as few as 5 percent of low-wage workers are covered by employer-sponsored paid leave policies.These workers are also least likely to afford the often-exorbitant cost of quality infant care.
To companies, who lose many qualified workers as a result of families’ inability to balance work with caregiving demands. And employers that currently can’t offer paid family leave may lose their top talent to employers that can.
And to America’s economic vitality and future prosperity, which depends on the productivity and participation of today’s workers, as well as on the health and wellbeing of young children who will become the workforce of tomorrow. Studies show that workers with access to paid leave policies are far less likely to drop out of the labor force or to become dependent on government assistance programs.
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.
Task Force Leadership
Paid family leave is an essential component of ensuring that women have equal opportunities in the workplace. 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.
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. More and more lawmakers are hearing from their constituents that the realities for working Americans have changed and national policy needs to catch up.
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. I am increasingly concerned about the long-term impact of millions of kids not getting a good start in life.