73% of the Private Sector Workforce Has No Access to Paid Family Leave
Across the globe in countries big and small, family leave from work is recognized as a critical period and right for new parents and their children. That recognition is reflected by legally mandated paid family leave policies. Yet compared to the rest of the world, the United States of America continues to fail to offer a federal law requiring paid family leave for its citizens.
Last year we wrote about how the US ranks dead last for supportive work family policies and how the October child care crisis impacts American mothers.
Last week, the topic of US moms lacking family leave support reached a fever pitch when Kyte Baby, a bamboo-based children’s clothing brand fell under fire for terminating a new mother while she was caring for her newborn son who was born prematurely.
While the hypocrisy of a woman-owned baby business firing a new mother during what was essentially her maternity leave was enough to generate a backlash from the company’s customers and snowball into a PR nightmare, the spotlight is and should be focused once again on how poorly the US family leave legal policies are performing to allow a situation like this to happen at all.
The United States is the only advanced economy that does not mandate paid leave for new mothers, lagging far behind the global average of 29 weeks of paid maternity leave. While the Family and Medical Leave Act grants eligible new parents in the U.S. up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, this only applies to those who have worked at least one year for a large company.
This leaves employees like Marissa Hughes, the new mother that Kyte Baby fired– and all others like her across the country– to fall in between the cracks created by a missing federal maternity leave mandate.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 1 in 4 employees (27 percent) in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave while nearly 3 in 4 (73 percent) do not.
US legislation around the problem has been a nonstarter until last May, when the The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act was proposed (for the fourth time since 2017) in the Senate, this time to the 118th United States Congress.
So far, the senate bill has only progressed about 25% of the way it would need to go to be passed.
However, if it were to be passed into law, the FAMILY Act could potentially solve the problem by mandating paid family leave of up to 12 weeks for qualifying individuals, job protection for participants, and possibly shared funding responsibility between employers and employees.
Until U.S. federal support is secured, new parents and their children will continue to struggle.