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What you need to know, according to a political expert

The experience of bringing a new child into your world is fraught with challenges and things to learn – and that’s not to mention the unique emotional and physical changes you’ll go through if you’ve given birth. As if things weren’t difficult enough for new parents, they often find themselves in uncharted waters when it comes to navigating paid parental leave and job security when you are ready to return to work.

You probably don’t need us to tell you that the statistics on paid parental leave for new parents in the United States are grim, especially compared to other countries. According to data from the World Policy Analysis Center, the United States is the only wealthy country in the world without federally guaranteed paid parental leave. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees most workers in companies with 50 or more employees access to unpaid family carer leave without the risk of losing your job, it is simply not acceptable on any level that we are one of the six countries in the whole world without paid parental leave. Frankly, that’s bullshit.

What is parental leave?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, parental leave is defined as “leave granted to an employee to care for a newborn, recently adopted child, foster child, or ‘a child otherwise in need of parental care’.

Who has access to paid parental leave?

First, you might want to take a deep breath before you hear the bad news: the vast majority of Americans don’t have access to any paid family leave through their employer. In 2021, only 23% of American workers in private companies are eligible for paid family leave, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Things are a little better for those employed by the federal government. As of October 2020, the Federal Employees Paid Vacation Act grants federal employees 12 weeks of paid vacation after welcoming a child. The policy, part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020, grants paid leave to more than two million federal workers, with the stipulation that they have been in federal service for at least one year. year, as well as legislation requiring re-authorization each fiscal year.

Under the Biden administration, federal progress on the parental leave front is painfully slow but shows slight signs of improvement. Several bills are currently before Congress, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FAMILY), which would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income when taking time off for health reasons, including pregnancy and childbirth recovery, child birth or adoption, and more. The FAMILY Act would benefit full-time and part-time workers in any business, including freelancers and contract workers.

President Biden tried to pass the Build Back Better Act, a sweeping package of health, social and climate change policies, including four weeks of partially paid family and medical leave for nearly all working Americans. However, his fate remains in limbo thanks to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia’s refusal to pass him through the Senate in late 2021.

That said, 11 states and the District of Columbia have adopted paid family leave programs in recent years, as Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow for Paid Leave Policy and Strategy at New America’s Better Life Lab, tells Scary Mommy. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Connecticut and DC already have active paid programs to benefit new parents. Oregon’s program will begin paying benefits to eligible workers in 2023; Colorado’s program will take effect in 2024; Maryland in 2025; and Delaware in 2026, Shabo says.

What are the benefits of paid parental leave?

Frankly, no parent should have to return to work within days or even weeks of welcoming a child, and even unpaid leave of any kind is a sad reality in our country. Research consistently shows the physical and mental health benefits of new parents receiving more than a few weeks of paid parental leave, especially for those whose bodies are recovering from human birth. Health benefits identified for children whose parents receive paid paternal leave include higher vaccination rates and health checkups, higher likelihood and longer duration of breastfeeding, fewer avoidable visits in the hospital and more committed parental care.

But plenty of paid time off is good for every family member, not just new moms. Babies benefit immensely from having both carers in the home during those crucial first months, and paternity leave is equally important to allow fathers or secondary carers to participate in childcare.

How can you determine your benefits?

“Access to paid and unpaid leave in the United States is too rare, and it’s confusing,” Shabo says. “It’s unfortunate – advocates and people who have experienced confusion and disappointment are working hard for change. Start researching your options early and ask your employer what you will need.

“For companies that have HR manuals or policy manuals, start there and then talk to someone in HR,” she suggests. “If you are in a small business or a company that has never seen someone take parental leave before, you should also contact HR, but first do some research on your industry and use the resources produced by organizations like The Skimm., or paid leave for the U.S. to find out what to ask for. Also confirm if your state has a paid family and medical leave program (or temporary disability insurance program in place) and whether the unpaid family and medical leave and pregnancy-related disability protections in your state provide you with rights and protections.

Unfortunately, another issue plaguing new parents is job security once you’re ready to re-enter the workforce. “Access to job security depends on whether you and your workplace are covered by federal FMLA, whether you have additional and greater protections under state laws, and your employers’ policies. “, explains Shabo. “As a benchmark, the FMLA guarantees job security and continued health insurance benefits to workers who have been employed for at least one year and worked 1,250 hours in the previous year – but it only applies to job sites with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.These restrictions exclude almost half of the workforce!Some states offer more protections and some employers choose to guarantee the safety of employment because it’s both the right thing to do and helps them attract and retain employees.

Shabo’s top advice for anyone about to embark on this journey: “Know your rights, talk to others in your community and workplace, and breathe deeply.”

Expert source:

Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow for Paid Leave Policy and Strategy at New America’s Better Life Lab

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