Parental Leave Seen as Key to Strengthening Families and Society

Parental presence during children's early years is seen as key to their development and bond with their parent. Credit: taliesin/morguefile.com

Parental presence during children’s early years is seen as key to their development and bond with their parent. Credit: taliesin/morguefile.com

Just 12 percent of American workers are offered paid family leave through their employer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – while other developed countries offer as much as a year of leave to care for a child. While that is shifting here among a handful of private- and public-sector employers, Kelly Johnson, spokeswoman for Attachment Parenting International, said there’s a need to change the attitudes of the American workforce. “There’s such a stigma in the United States about taking that time off for any type of parental leave – whether it’s male or female – and especially if it’s a man taking time off,” she said, “I feel like that is so frowned upon here.” Tennessee’s parental-leave law gives eligible employees up to four months of unpaid leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth and nursing an infant, but they have to work for an employer with more than 100 employees. October is Attachment Parenting Month, and Johnson said her organization is highlighting the importance of parental presence in the life of a young child. Increasing access to paid leave is part of their effort to enable parents to shape the life of their child and nurture the bond that will benefit them both as the child ages. Beginning this year, federal employees were given the right to take six weeks of paid leave when they became parents. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have paid family-leave programs. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research, about 90 percent of California businesses say it either had a positive impact or none on profitability and helped reduce turnover. When employees are able to fulfill responsibilities at home, Johnson said, they are better able to do the same at work. “I don’t think businesses realize just how crucial that is,” she said. “It makes for a healthier child. It makes for a happier family. There’ve been businesses that have found that it has actually increased their profitability.” Increasing access to paid leave is part of the effort to enable parents to shape the life of their child and nurture the bond that will benefit them both as the child ages.
The Center for Economic Policy research is online at cepr.net.