Way too often, I find myself saying "Congratulations!" and "I'm sorry" in the same conversation with new and expecting parents when they call about Paid Family Leave: "Congratulations" on expecting a child and "I'm sorry" when they tell me their employer is not allowing them to keep their job if they go on leave.
DON'T WE ALREADY HAVE PARENTAL LEAVE?
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) only provide 12 weeks of job protection to employees who have worked over a year in companies with 50 or more employees. This leaves over 40% of our workforce ineligible for job protected leave even if they pay into California's Paid Family Leave program. This week, our State Senators have the opportunity to take a step toward changing this when they vote on the New Parent Leave Act - SB 1166 (Jackson) - which will extend 12 weeks of job protected leave to new fathers and mothers who work for companies with 10 or more employees.
PARENTAL LEAVE IS CRUCIAL FOR INFANT HEALTH AND FAMILY ECONOMIC SECURITY
We have to work on passing SB 1166 for the health of children and families. Access to job-protected bonding leave is crucial to the economic security of families and the health, well-being, and brain development of young children. I talked to a new mother last week that was devastated when her boss told her she had to return to work and find childcare for her 6-week-old daughter or lose her job. She needs her job, but she also worries about the health impacts of leaving her baby so soon. Studies show that parental bonding is important to the healthy development of children:
- According to a 2011 study of 141 countries with paid leave policies, parental leave can reduce infant mortality by as much as 10%.
- Parental leave also increases the chance of newborns getting well-baby care visits and vaccinations according to one study.
- Parental leave can also increase the rate and duration of breast-feeding. A 2011 study on California's Paid Family Leave found that women with access to leave breast-fed twice as long as women who did not.
- In a study of international fathers, dads who took paternity leave stayed more involved with their children and with childcare activities than men who took no leave.
According to 2015 market research conducted for the Employment Development Department, the fear of job loss is one of the top reasons California workers gave for not taking Paid Family Leave even when they've paid into it. Passing SB 1166 will be a big step toward making sure our Paid Family Leave program works for all workers and their families. Tell your California State Senator you support SB 1166 the New Parent Leave Act. Every child deserves the best start possible and workers deserve equal access to bonding time with family.
For more information on Paid Family Leave, go to paidfamilyleave.org.