In a State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. ” 2 What we call ‘paid leave’ is really medical and family leave insurance. It provides wages to those who take temporary leave to care for an ill family member, recover from their own health issues, or care for a newborn child. 7 America’s lack of paid leave is a serious problem, since our families, businesses, and economy could greatly benefit from it. Every parent deserves time to be with their newly born child.
However, for most parents, their current job does not allow them to take the time off they need. In America, “three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers have either left the workforce or switched to a less demanding job.. to care for their children. ” 1 Forcing parents to leave work and struggle financially without wages is an unnecessary stress on families. Tens of millions of parents have financial problems because they had to take unpaid time off to care for their children. 5 American workers should be provided time off to ensure that children’s future is not filled with nnecessary financial hardship.
Along with the financial benefits, paid leave also positively impacts family life. Working long hours without taking time off negatively affects a person’s health and family. 4 Enacting a federal policy for paid leave insurance would cause more men to take leave. With more fathers at home, the work of caring for a child at home becomes balanced between both parents. Our country has a great opportunity to create a positive change for gender dynamics. Fathers who take a few weeks off when they have a new child end up being more committed and involved with their child later n.
The jobs like feeding and changing diapers are usually left up to the mother, but with paid leave, fathers help with these tasks more than a father who does not take leave. 2 Although it seems that enacting a paid leave policy would negatively impact businesses, many have found that it benefits them in the long run. It is a given there will be short term costs to cover wages for employees who are not working at the time. 2 But, businesses in our three states with paid leave programs have said that the policy had “minimal impact on their business operations. 91 ercent said it had a neutral or even positive effect on profitability and employee performance. 2 Without being required to, many American businesses have enacted their own paid leave policies because of the long term benefits including retention, productivity, and attractiveness to potential employees. 2
Researchers Eileen Appelbaum and Ruth Milkman found that workers with low-quality jobs who used family leave insurance were more likely to return to their original employees, at 82. 7% of workers, rather than the 73% who did not take leave. When workers quit their job because they are not ffered any paid leave insurance, employers are obliged to hire and train new employees, which is costly. 7 An additional benefit to businesses offering paid leave is that attracts high quality workers that can help improve the company. 7 Since women make up half of all American workers and “are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in roughly two-thirds of families with children,” 1 providing family leave will stop holding our economy back. It is estimated that five million American women would join the labor force, outputting $500 billion a year, if women had access to paid leave.
Countries that provide paid leave, such as Canada or Germany, have this high a rate for female participation in the workforce. 1 Additional to bringing women into the workforce, paid family leave keeps people in the workforce because they are able to take time off if they need to. The flexibility that paid leave gives is associated most with 10-25 week long leaves. 7 Paid family leave is correlated with high employment rates in other countries, so there it is likely that America’s employment rate would improve as well. Other countries have strengthened their economies with paid eave, but America’s problem is that we still do not have it. America lacks crucial paid leave policies for a variety of reasons. Paid family leave is generally thought of as a women’s issue that can be kept on the back burner. Americans have failed to see it as a way to benefit our businesses and the economy. However, there are solid explanations for why Americans see paid leave from this viewpoint. Firstly, America was founded, according to sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, on individualism and equal opportunity.
This country has never been a feudal or onarchical society, therefore we are not very aware of social classes compared to other countries. 3 So, Americans have the mentality they can become a part of the social class that they aspire to be included in if they work long and hard enough. America highly values hard work and still believes in the American Dream. That is why some people see taking time off work, including vacations and all types of leave, as lazy or bad for their self image. Workers want to show their employer that they are committed employees since America lacks employment protection and they could lose their job.
For men especially, taking leave can have a stigma, so creating a good paid leave plan for America has not been a priority for most males. Along with America’s values about hard work, our political history has greatly influenced our country’s failure to create paid leave policies. Interestingly enough, Europe enacted paid leave policies after their defeat in WWII. They lost too many lives and had infrastructural damage that needed workers to repair it. According to sociology professor Ruth Milkman, “the European social democracies that emerged after WWII all wanted paid leave policies… part because of their concern about replenishing the population. ” Paid family leave allowed women to leave to have children while still keeping their job, since women’s participation was needed in the workforce at that time. Meanwhile in the US, more soldiers were able to come home and get back to work. Women were less needed in the workforce in America, so the government was not focused on creating policies for female workers. While many countries have followed Europe’s lead and introduces paid leave, America has yet to follow up successfully. America has come close though.
In 1971, Congress passed a legislation that President Nixon vetoed. He sided with the conservative viewpoint that it would discriminate against stay at home mothers. 1 Surprisingly, conservative opposition still prevents the making of policies that would help working families. Some people in the business community also argue that the government should not tell business how to run things. They claim that it is too expensive and that they can “figure it out on their own”. 3 Although there is some opposition to paid leave in America SOLUTION Although paid leave is not yet widespread in
America, we do have an unpaid leave policy and states that have progressed on their own. The Family and Medical Leave Act, more commonly known as the FMLA, was passed back in 1993. It gives only 59% of American workers access to twelve weeks of unpaid, job protected leave. 7 It is good that America has this basic policy, but could reap even more benefits with the leave being paid. A few states have already enacted paid leave policies and have found that they are beneficial. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia all have laws to protect the health and economic security of new parents.
Many businesses across the U. S. choose to offer paid family leave to their employees because of the benefits it can bring to their employees and their business as a whole. 6 America’s failure to have paid leave available to all workers does have a simple solution. One possible plan is the FAMILY Act, modeled after the other states’ success. It is a social insurance proposal that would pay workers at two thirds of the amount of their normal wages for up to twelve weeks. 1 A worker could utilize this insurance when caring for a new child, a seriously ill family member, or their own serious illness.
This proposal is well thought out and would be a good starting point for our country. Fortunately, the cost for this plan is attainable, since “employers and employees would each pay a tax of 0. 2 percent of wages, which for a worker earning the median wage would amount to $1. 65 per week. ” 1 This low cost is attributed to the fact that the pay during leave would not be in full. While most countries do pay workers on leave in full, not all of them give workers even half of their usual wages. 6 Most countries use a system similar to social security to fund the paid time off. 6 Add conclusion and call to action