Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The benefits of paid family leave

(Rachel Woolf/Baltimore Sun/MCT)
(Rachel Woolf/Baltimore Sun/MCT)

Earlier this month, San Francisco became the first major United States city to guarantee fully paid parental leave for new parents. This six-week paid leave is applicable for both mothers and fathers, and includes same-sex couples and adoptions. Only a handful of states offer partial paid leave to workers, and although bills have been tossed around Congress, there has been little progress in enacting paid family leave statutes at a federal level.

The U.S. takes a stand as the last developed country in the world to not have federal statutes protecting family leave. According to Columbia professor Jane Waldfogel, the majority of other developed countries offer an average of 10 to 12 months of paid parental leave, if not more. This allows parents to connect and bond with their new baby, while still earning an income and not having to deal with the stress of going back to work before they’re ready out of fear of losing their jobs.

Instead of paid family leave, the U.S. offers unpaid leave. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires businesses to allow men and women up to 12 weeks off for pregnancy and child care. This Act does not require businesses to pay employees during their leave; it just ensures that they cannot be fired, and will return to the same job once their time off comes to an end.

Although some may argue that this sounds reasonable, under FMLA regulations many people are not eligible for unpaid leave. To be considered eligible, a person must have worked for the company for over a year and the company must employ over 50 people within a 75-mile radius. According to a report from the Council of Economic Advisers, only 60 percent of workers are eligible for protection under the FMLA. These restrictions impact minorities and young people the most. Even with this coverage, many people cannot afford to take this time off without receiving income.

Paid family leave comes with benefits that would positively effect our society in a plethora of ways. Studies focusing on the United States’ paid leave programs have shown that infant mortality rates decrease by as much as 10 percent, and depressive symptoms in mothers decrease. The U.S.’s infant mortality rate currently ranks much higher than other developed countries, a fact that could be combatted by enacting paid family leave.

Not only would paid leave benefit the health and wellbeing of the baby and the caregiver, but it would also be a step in fighting gender inequality and the professional wage gap. Women in our country are more likely to take unpaid leave than men. Women with access to paid leave tend to go back to work and stay with the same employer, allowing their wages to grow more quickly and for them to continue advancing in their career. According to the Center for American Progress, up to 16 years after their first child, women who had access to paid family leave have incomes nine percent higher than those who did not. They have also found that when paid leave is offered, men are much more likely to take it. Paternity leave counters our country’s ingrained belief that childcare is solely women’s work, and creates a stronger bond between father and child.

Although a few states and cities like San Francisco have shown progress, the rest of the country still lags behind. Our nation needs paid family leave to be enacted by Congress and implemented at the federal level, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will benefit our society as a whole in years to come.

Katrina Kervin is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Apr 21, 2016 at 6:37 am

    As a father, there is no question that familial leave is – I would argue – a good thing. At issue is the idea of mandating it.

    What you’re doing, essentially, is being generous with someone else’s money and resources, and thumping yourself on your chest about how generous YOU are. That’s not generosity, that’s theft.

    If you TRULY want to advance the idea of paid parental leave, do research – honestly, not driven by an agenda – into how paid parental leave affects the bottom line. If the evidence shows companies it results in more motivated, more loyal, more productive, they’ll adopt it VOLUNTARILY.