NEW YORK — Nearly eight in 10 parents are outraged that the U.S. has no federal paid family leave laws for new moms and dads. The survey, conducted by OnePoll, on Jan. 14 of 2,000 parents with children under 18 years-old examines how paid family leave affects their lives.
It shows that 72 percent believe the government has no idea what it means to raise a family while living paycheck to paycheck.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill – which proposes four weeks of paid time off for parents, among other measures such as climate change and healthcare funding – is currently stalled in Congress. However, on Jan. 19, Biden said, “I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law.” It’s unclear whether that will include paid family leave. Even if paid family leave is salvaged within the bill, 75 percent agree that four weeks still isn’t enough time to raise a newborn or recover from a pregnancy.
Twenty-eight percent believe new parents should receive at least 11 to 20 weeks of paid leave to adjust to parenthood, and 22 percent think 21 to 30 weeks is a more appropriate time frame for new moms and dads.
Build Back Better bill still won’t improve country’s status?
The U.S. ranked last on the list of 41 nations that mandate paid leave to new parents, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study. Estonia offers more than 80 weeks of paid leave, and other countries, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, and Lithuania, provide parents with over a year’s worth of paid time off.
Six in 10 respondents (62%) are aware that the U.S. is one of six countries that doesn’t offer paid family leave for parents on a national level.
“The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world where this is the case – in fact, most developing countries have better policies than we do,” says Ruth Milkman, a professor of labor studies and sociology at the City University of New York, in a statement. “The reasons are complex but strikingly parallel to the situation with national health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is a start on this but it does not provide universal coverage. All other rich countries do so.”
“I agree that four weeks is not ideal, but it certainly is better than zero,” she continues. “Sadly though, the prospects of Build Back Better becoming law appear to be slim in any case.”
Work benefits don’t provide much support either
More than six in 10 working parents (62%) say their employers offer paid maternity/paternity leave, but 30 percent don’t have that benefit. Over half the poll (56%) also have access to childcare benefits from their job, while 35 percent do not.
When it comes to taking time off to care for their first child, 14 percent note the most paid time off their employers offer them is only four weeks. Only a few parents managed to get more time off from work, with 11 percent saying they had six weeks of paid parental leave and four percent getting up to 10 weeks off.
After having their first child, however, 77 percent admit they felt pressure to return to work immediately because they feared losing their job. Meanwhile, 73 percent felt pressure to return because they were afraid they couldn’t make ends meet staying at home.
That may be why 72 percent of parents feel they have to choose between raising their children and earning a paycheck. Sixty-nine percent even admit the lack of national paid family leave in the U.S. has made them rethink whether or not they want to have more children.
Most Americans don’t have access to paid family leave. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 89 percent of private industry workers and the same percentage of civilian workers didn’t have paid family leave as of March 2021.
Moving just for the family benefits
However, some states such as New York, New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia have enacted their own laws to provide parents with paid family leave. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of parents shared they’ve considered moving to another state that offers those benefits on a state level.
Milkman notes that except for a few states that have state paid family leave programs, workers only have access to paid leave if their employers provide it.
“Employers do so primarily for managerial and professional workers, while low-wage workers have access to paid leave much less often,” Milkman says. “Those without [paid family leave] access are forced to choose between the well-being of their children and their incomes. Many risk being fired if they put their families first.”