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Moms (and Dads) in the United States Still Lack Access to Paid Family Leave

New fact sheet from IWPR finds that access to leave for parents has improved but lags far behind other countries

To mark Mother’s Day, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new fact sheet showing that paid maternity leave policies have improved to be nearly universal among the country’s top 100 family-friendly employers (based on analysis of Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies”).
May 05, 2011

 

 

To mark Mother’s Day, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new fact sheet showing that paid maternity leave policies have improved to be nearly universal among the country’s top 100 family-friendly employers (based on analysis of Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies”). However, the United States is still one of only five countries in the world not to provide employees with the right to paid maternity leave.

“Research study after research study shows that paid maternity leave is good for mothers, good for babies, good for employers and good for the economy,” said Ariane Hegewisch, Study Director at IWPR and co-author of the fact sheet. “What is less clear is why the United States is one of the very few countries that does not provide this basic right to working mothers.”

Even among the most family-friendly employers, as rated by Working Mother magazine in 2010, some still do not provide any paid leave or only a few weeks. Fortunately, there has been a dramatic increase among companies on this list that provide at least some paid leave to adoptive parents (up from 54 percent in 2006 to 89 percent in 2010) and to fathers (up from 50 percent to 74 percent in the same period). The share of the most generous companies to moms, offering more than 12 weeks paid maternity leave, has doubled from 8 to 16 percent between 2006 and 2010.

In the private sector, only 10 percent of employees have access to paid family leave and only 4 percent among workers with the lowest earnings. Access to paid leave is more likely if an employee is well-paid, works in managerial or professional occupations, or is employed by a company with at least 100 employees.

Paid leave for new mothers, a majority of whom report one or more physical side effect(s) five weeks after birth, can aid in their recovery and can also contribute to the health of infants. Lack of access to paid leave makes it more likely that infants receive follow-up care, leads to lower rates of immunization, and decreases rates of breastfeeding.

“Paid family leave contributes to healthier, happier kids by giving moms the opportunity to stay at home to breastfeed—a factor that contributes to improved development early in life,” said Robert Drago, Ph.D., Director of Research at IWPR. “It also makes moms healthier by lowering their risks of diabetes and heart attacks.”

Paid maternity leave reduces employers’ costs for recruitment and training, and increases commitment and motivation among all employees. IWPR’s analysis of staff turnover rates in the federal government—still without a formal right to paid maternity leave—found significantly higher turnover rates for women of child-bearing age compared to men in the same age group.

The fact sheet analyzes the provision of maternity, paternity, and adoptive parents leave among the companies among Working Mothers “Best Companies” in 2006 and 2010, provides data from the National Compensation Survey on access to paid family leave among all private sector employees in 2010, and summarizes research on the impact of access and lack of access to paid leave on women, children, employers, and the economy.

 

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies and public policy programs at The George Washington University.

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