Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Leave
This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on paid leave, highlighting the critical need for family and medical paid leave and how our current patchwork of paid leave policies falls short of supporting all infants and families. It also confirmed the importance of paid leave for workers, businesses, and the country.
While there have been some gains in paid family leave over the past five years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 1 in 4 employees (27 percent) in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave. Access to paid family leave is lower among those receiving lower wages or working part-time. People of color also have less access to paid family leave than their white counterparts.
This lack of paid family leave means parents are often forced to choose between taking time off from work to care for their young children and earning the income they need to support their families. It means that 1 in 4 women in America return to work just 2 weeks after giving birth, putting their health and that of their infant at risk. Policies that enable parents to spend time nurturing and caring for their babies—particularly in the early weeks after birth and for babies that are born pre-term, low birthweight or with illness—are critical to the healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development of children.
We applaud state, local and business-level efforts to increase access to paid family leave, but it is not enough to address this public health crisis. We need a national paid family and medical leave program that is comprehensive and covers all workers, including small business employees and the self-employed. Paid leave is the biggest obstacle to working women in the U.S. in the 1,000-day window and can reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. Our 2020 qualitative paid leave report highlights real stories from families without access to paid leave and the detrimental impacts it had on their family, including their health and the health of their baby.
We appreciate the Senate Finance Committee’s thoughtful attention to this issue. We call on Congress to take the next step, moving legislation to enact a comprehensive national paid leave policy that supports mothers and families and ensures children get the strongest start to life.