At an April 25th forum at the Ford Foundation, coordinated by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), researchers discussed the benefits of paid leave for children and parents' wellbeing, particularly for low-income families.
"In 2012, the United States remains the only industrialized nation without a national paid family leave program that supports workers who need time off to attend to important family needs, such as caring for a new baby or sick child," said Curtis Skinner, PhD, director of family economic security at NCCP.
"The status quo, whereby the lowest-paid workers are least likely to have paid sick leave or other leave that enables them to take care of family responsibilities, forces working parents to choose between not taking care of their family or losing their wages (or losing their job altogether)," observed Work and Family issue editor Jane Waldfogel, who presented at the forum. And many low-income workers cannot afford to take the unpaid leave provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act, even if they are eligible.
Forcing parents to choose between family and work not only strains families but also costs employers in terms of diminished employee productivity, engagement, and retention. Even in the lowest paying jobs, it costs more to train a new worker than to provide current workers paid leave options.
U.S. businesses are often resistant to discussing paid leave options - assuming that the costs of paid leave will fall to them. However, as Waldfogel explained at the forum, this is not necessarily the case. Paid leave can be provided by a social insurance fund, such as the one provided in New Jersey. New research on the impact of such policies on children and families in the United States will be critical to larger scale implementations of family leave policies in the U.S.
For more on Work and Family, go to www.futureofchildren.org. Building a Competitive Future Right from the Start: A Paid Family Leave Forum was coordinated by NCCP with the help of the New York State Paid Leave Coalition and A Better Balance, with support from the Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hagedorn foundations.