For Immediate Release: December 12, 2013
Washington, D.C. – The Center for American Progress and the Center for Economic and Policy Research released a report today that makes the case for why Americans need paid parental leave.
The report, “Job Protection Isn’t Enough: Why America Needs Paid Parental Leave,” examines whether the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, which grants certain workers the ability to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave after a birth or adoption, has been successful in encouraging more workers to use parental leave. The analysis paints a sobering picture of the law’s impact. Two decades after the implementation of the FMLA, only a small share of U.S. workers take parental leave, including a miniscule share of men. The law has not succeeded in increasing the share of workers taking leave nor does it seem that the FMLA has contributed in any obvious way to reducing longstanding disparities in parental-leave rates between more- and less-educated women or full-time and part-time workers.
The analysis suggests that the combination of the law’s eligibility criteria, which leave about 40 percent of workers uncovered, and the law’s failure to provide paid leave accounts for the FMLA’s limited impact.
Ensuring access to universal paid family and medical leave would not only be an important step toward ensuring that no worker needs to choose between an important family related obligation and an urgent issue at work, but the policy would also benefit the economy. In addition to illustrating the health benefits of family leave, a separate Center for American Progress issue brief, “The Economic Benefits of Family and Medical Leave Insurance,” explains that family and medical leave insurance is good for the economy. The economic benefits of family and medical leave insurance include:
- Growth in labor-force participation. Research indicates that family and medical leave insurance programs provide workers with flexible options to remain in the labor force while taking care of a loved one or recovering from an illness or pregnancy.
- Improved employee retention. Workers who use family and medical leave insurance while on leave are more likely to return to their pre-leave employer than those who did not.
- Limited or positive impacts on business operations. There is evidence that family and medical leave insurance can increase employer profitability. A study of companies listed in Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” finds that the availability and usage of work-family programs and policies has a positive impact on company profits.
- Increases to lifetime earnings and retirement security among workers, especially women. Family and medical leave insurance gives workers a way to stay in the labor force while taking leave, thereby increasing their lifetime earnings and retirement savings.
- Increases to the use of leave among working fathers. Family and medical leave insurance would incentivize men and women to share care responsibilities. Although women make up almost half of the labor force and a majority of families now rely on their incomes for financial stability, women, rather than men, often take on the role of caregiver.