New report shows the U.S. still failing new parents in providing protections for paid leave

LatinaLista — Nobody argues that parenting is hard work, and with all due respect to stay-at-home moms, those moms who find themselves having to return to work after giving birth to provide a decent quality of life for themselves and their children all too often suffer more stress and angst than their stay-at-home counterparts.

While new and expecting parents can feel relieved that they are protected by three national laws that specifically address issues experienced by new and expecting parents: pregnancy discrimination, family and medical leave, and nursing mothers’ rights at work, there is still one area that falls short of helping working parents.

It’s paid leave protections. The United States is among the minority across the planet when it comes to guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers. There are 178 nations that supply this for their new mothers and 54 nations guarantee paid leave for new fathers.

Not having such a guarantee can create a host of stressful scenarios for new parents if bosses get grouchy because new parents are home with the baby, or complications arise with the newborn and more time away from work is needed or parents can’t find suitable child care in time before they have to return to work…the list goes on.

Only 38 percent of workers have access to employer-provided short-term disability insurance, which would provide some income during a woman’s pregnancy-related disability leave. And only about one-tenth of the workforce has access to employer-provided paid family leave to care for a new child.

Workers in low-paying jobs — those with the greatest need for both job protection and wage replacement during leave from work — are far less likely to have access to either of these employer-provided benefits. After returning to work, some nursing mothers have legal protections that help them continue to provide breast milk to their children, but others must rely on their employers’ goodwill to be able to pump at work.

As a nation where politicians like to routinely cite US policies as an example for other countries to follow, there is just no comparison between the United States and the rest of the world when it comes to laws that help new parents. Other countries are doing, and have been doing, a better job in this arena for a while. But not all hope is lost for the United States — if examined state-by-state.

A new report released by the National Partnership for Women & Families finds that some states are getting decent grades for helping new parents but too many are getting “Fs.”

Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents graded every state on their state laws and regulations governing paid leave and workplace rights for new parents.

Only California and Connecticut earned grades of “A-.” Eight states earned a grade of “B;” seven states earned a grade of “C;’ and 14 states earned a grade of “D.” Eighteen states received failing grades for having enacted no leave or other workplace policies to help new parents who are in the workforce, beyond the protections provided by federal law.

The conclusion that can be drawn from the report is that there is a lot of room for improvement. The National Partnership for Women & Families says change is possible and even on the horizon:

The Obama administration has proposed a state paid leave fund that would help support states that want to create their own paid leave programs. Some members of Congress who recognize the struggles families face are working on a proposal for a national paid leave insurance program, which would establish a national standard and greatly increase access to paid leave for America’s families.

Yet, paid family leave is an issue that moves very slowly in Washington and state legislatures though data shows the majority of voters support candidates who campaign on such legislation — and more importantly, believe in candidates who deliver.

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