Create a paid parental leave policy in the United States

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Welcoming a child into your household, whether through birth, adoption, or foster care placement should be a time of happiness. It is a time for a parent or parents to bond with that child, to recover from delivery, and establish a breastfeeding relationship. In the United States, the only federal law in regards to maternity leave is the Family Medical Leave Act. In 1993 President Bill Clinton put into place the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA provides 12 weeks of UNPAID leave to employees that qualify for FMLA. However, due to the parameters of the law (a business needing 50 employees and having had to work 1250 in the prior 12 months) only 40% of employees are eligible for this benefit. However, not all those individuals can utilize this benefit as they cannot afford to be out of work without pay.

The benefits of a paid parental leave policy for parents and children are unsurmountable.

  • Mothers who are able to stay home with their babies for longer periods of time have increased breastfeeding duration
  • Fathers and partners who have paid parental leave experience further bonding with their child
  • Women are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression 
  • Fathers who take leave have an increased likelihood to take on a larger role as caregiver, thus, providing support for women to return to the workforce
  • Less government spending, as families will rely less on social welfare programs such as WIC and food stamps.

Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have a national paid parental leave law: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations and, yes, the United States.

As a country we stand behind the ideals of family values; however, the policies in place do not replicate that sentiment. It is time that the United States looks at the impact on the lack of paid parental leave and revamps this twenty-five year old policy. The way parental leave is set-up in the United States, taking leave has become a luxury that many Americans cannot afford. This is not just a women’s issue, rather a human rights issue, one that impacts mothers, fathers, children, and the economy. While this is not a new issue, it is often one that is overlooked. We need to bring this issue to the forefront of policy makers’ agenda to affect change for the generations to come.

 



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