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The term ‘parental leave’ often refers to the time taken off of work by a parent- mother or father- in relation to the birth or adoption of their child. Most countries in the UN offer this benefit, but unfortunately the United States does not. Of 193 countries, New Guinea, Suriname, some South Pacific island nations, and the United States do not have any national paid parental leave law.  This results in parents often returning to work sooner than desired because they’re not able to afford to take any more time off, which can cause more stress and hardships in a new family as well as a higher turnover rate in businesses. Paid parental leave needs to be offered nationwide at the best interest of America and preserving the American Dream. Benefits that come from providing paid parental leave are present not only in families and American society, but also in businesses as well. The three states that have employed paid parental leave policies in the United States are California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and each one has projected positive outcomes from doing so. One of these benefits is a lower turnover rate in businesses- meaning that employees are remaining at their companies, thus saving money and time and experience that comes with hiring and training new employees, which ultimately saves more money in the long-run. Another important benefit that arises from offering paid parental leave is security to working families in need- without paid leave, workers often are forced to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which they are unlikely able to afford. Paid leave programs also help reduce health care cost and contribute to improved health- new families can more easily get babies to the doctor for check-ups and vaccinations. Paid leave also saves government and taxpayer money because parents who take paid leave are less likely to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps, and returned back to work 9 to 12 months after the birth or adoption of their child. The children and families being cared for under a paid parental leave policy would also reap tremendous health benefits. Without protection under a national paid leave policy, parents are only able to take a small amount of time off, facing a difficult choice between the care and health of their child and their job. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “mothers that are covered under job-protected leave are more likely to take at least the minimum six to eight weeks of leave recommended by physicians.”  By providing 10 weeks of paid parental leave for new parents, the post-neonatal mortality is reduced by up to 4.5%, and mothers are more likely to breastfeed and continue to breastfeed for twice as long as mothers who did not receive paid parental leave. Healthy and sick children have better outcomes when their parents have access to paid leave- “the presence of a parent shortens a child’s hospital stay by 31%….and active parental involvement in a child’s hospital care may head off future health care needs”The only system in place currently that resembles parental leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the event of illness, childbirth, adoption, or helping a family member or loved one. According to the Department of Labor, The FMLA only applies to employers and employees that meet specific requirements. An employer covered by the FMLA is a  “private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer; a public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or a public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs. An employee covered by the FMLA must work for a covered employer, has worked for that employer for at least 12 months, has put in at least 1,250 hours of service for that employer during the 12 month time period before the leave, and works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. One of the main concerns surrounding the enactment of paid parental leave is funding the program. It is a common belief that requiring paid parental leave will effectively push out small businesses and contribute to unemployment, all while raising taxes considerably. There are multiple methods in providing paid parental leave. It can be privately funded- corporations would be required to cover the cost of paid parental leave as part of employee benefits-, or it can be publicly funded, like unemployment insurance. The United States can use other developed countries in Europe as a model of how paid parental leave functions; for example, in Sweden, paid parental leave is paid in about 80% of the mother’s pay and is paid by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan). Parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave.  Those who are not in employment are also entitled to paid parental leave. Perhaps a better model for paid parental leave is to take a look at the states that have already had a system in place for years already- California and New Jersey. In New Jersey, parental leave is covered under “Family Leave Insurance,” and is paid for through payroll deductions alone. According to New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, each employee contributes 0.09%- the maximum yearly deduction per employee is $29, and employees can take up to six weeks of paid leave at 66% of their weekly average wage, up to $595. In California, employees receive at most six weeks at about 55% of their weekly average wage, up to $1,067, and each employee pays an average of $30 a year into the paid leave fund. In most countries, a system like Social Security is utilized to fund paid parental leave, but in some countries, the employers may fund parental leave. Although the United States does not have a nationally mandated paid family leave policy in place, as of 2018, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and now New York have state-mandated paid leave plans. Also, Some businesses in the U.S. offer paid family leave to their employees by choice.In the United States there has been a long-time stigma towards men taking time off of their jobs to take paternity leave. This follows the sexist belief dating decades back that the women should be the “homemakers” while men should be the sole earners of the household in the case of a “traditional” man-woman household. Although this attitude has changed considerably, there is still a sense of emasculation instilled by the concept of paternity leave by American society. An equal paid leave policy would hold men up to a higher, more responsible standard that will likely gradually lessen the ‘taint’ associated with paternity leave. In 2015, researchers Marit Rønsen and Ragni Hege Kitterød conducted a study on the effect of Norwegian parental leave policy, and found that when a policy is related to gender equality, it contributes “a more equal division of paid and unpaid work among parents”. The idea of the “new father” is a process of changing the role of fathers in families to increase their responsibility. This process allows the transformation of the role of the father, but it is still a new ideology with a limited amount of research- still a social experiment. The father’s quota has been claimed to increase the involvement of fathers and challenging gender roles, thus promoting a more equal household. Rønsen & Kitterød also studied how long it took for the woman to return to work after giving birth after the policy changed to include the “father quota”, and found that women in Norway returned to work “significantly faster” on average because both parents can take time to care for a new child.

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