This year we’ve seen real momentum around a critical issue for working families in the United States: access to paid leave. At 1,000 Days, we are thrilled to see our nation’s leaders giving this important issue the attention it deserves. We believe that no parent should have to choose between taking time to care for and bond with their child and earning the income they need to support their family. And all women should be able to take the time they need to care for themselves during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many parents in the U.S. Only a small fraction of workers have access to paid leave – and those workers who do are typically in higher paying jobs. As a result, nearly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. returns to work within just 2 weeks after giving birth.
Access to comprehensive paid leave would help working parents give their children the strongest start to life. Research shows that paid leave contributes to healthier outcomes for moms, babies and their families. From helping to reduce the risk of infant death and illness, to helping women breastfeed more successfully and for longer periods of time, to promoting healthy cognitive, social and emotional development in children, the benefits of paid leave are numerous and far-reaching. Without access to paid leave, moms’ and babies’ health and well-being are put at risk.
Our Vision for Paid Leave
With grassroots support building around the country for a national paid leave program, it is important to remember that details matter. Not all paid leave policies would enable parents and their children to have the healthiest first 1,000 days and all the days that follow.
1,000 Days calls for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that covers all workers. To best support families during the first 1,000 days, the program must:
- Provide sufficient time off. At a minimum, 12 weeks of paid leave should be provided to working parents upon the birth or adoption of a child. 1,000 Days supports efforts to increase paid leave up to 24 weeks annually, which is especially critical to supporting women to breastfeed exclusively for six months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization.
- Cover all employers and all employees. Paid leave must be available to all workers, regardless of the size of their employer, the sector they work in, the length of their employment or whether they work full-time, part-time or are self-employed. Leave must be available to both women and men, regardless of marital status, and policies must be designed in a way to prevent unequal treatment in the workplace and hiring discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation and other criteria.
- Ensure economic security now and in the future. Employees’ wages and benefits must be maintained so that workers are not forced to decide between their caregiving obligations and their jobs. Employees must also retain the right to resume full paid employment after taking leave. Additionally, policies must ensure that taking leave now does not threaten employees’ future retirement security.
- Cover medical and family caregiving needs. Any plan should be available for the full range of personal medical and family caregiving needs, such as those established by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The FAMILY Act (S.463/H.R.1185) introduced by Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative DeLauro (D-CT) is the only bill in Congress right now that meets all of these criteria.
As conversations continue around our country’s vision for paid leave, let’s keep the needs of moms and babies top of mind and work to pass a strong paid leave policy that works for ALL families.