New parents and their children cannot wait any longer for family friendly policies according to a statewide study by the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), a non-profit advocacy group.
Despite state-led efforts to provide paid maternity leave, access to unpaid family and medical leave, paid sick days and pregnancy accommodation laws, lack of national action is taking a high toll on families, the study “Expecting Better” says.
“New mothers and fathers should not have to experience financial hardship at what should be one of the happiest times of their lives,” said NPWF President Debra L. Ness in a press release. “Yet tens of millions of expecting and new parents struggle because our nation fails to provide paid leave and other basic workplace protections.
Released in June as a follow-up to 2005 and 2012 reports, the study grades each state based on enactment of select laws that expand federal leave and workplace protections. California, the first state to provide paid family leave, got the the highest mark: an A-. Eleven states received B’s for limited advances in paid pregnancy and family medical leave; 17 states were given failing grades for their failure to enact a single policy to help new parents in the workforce.
Source: National Partnership for Women and Families
Nearly 24 million workers have statutory protections guaranteeing access to paid sick days, family and medical leave through temporary disability insurance programs. New Jersey, Rhode Island and California provide paid family leave. Other policies have expanded workers’ access in states like Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington and Washington, D.C.
But statewide progress is sporadic and federal action is limited. Only three national laws help some new and expecting parents address pregnancy discrimination, unpaid family and medical leave and nursing mother’s right to work. The U.S. lags behind 181 countries that guarantee paid leave for new mothers and 81 that guarantee paid leave for new fathers.
Only 60 percent of the workforce is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the nation’s chief work-and-family law. Low-income parents are disproportionately unable to access unpaid leave under FMLA because they often work for smaller businesses that are exempt from the law or because they juggle multiple part-time jobs, the study says.
The authors says the need for federal action is becoming more urgent with dramatic shifts in the U.S. economy, labor markets and workplace. Nearly 71 percent of children live in families where both parents work. Women are primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families and employed married women make 44 percent of household income..
To view the report, click here.