U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Looks to California for Benefits of Paid Family Leave

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a report a few weeks ago which analyzed how paid family leave (PFL) benefits low-income families. California was the first state to offer PFL, which expands on the federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. It remains one of only three states that offers it today. Fittingly, California's PFL program is often cited as a model for other states, which makes this report all the more important.

For example, did you know that 90% of PFL claims in California are from low-income parents (earning less than $12,000 per year), but only about 59% of all eligible mothers use it? What's more, only 7% of all PFL claims are made by lower-wage fathers, compared to 47% of men in the highest income quartile. What can we do to help more low-income moms and dads access PFL?

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One recommendation that the report suggests is increasing outreach through "health clinics, hospitals, social workers, home visitors, and other community-based services and outlets." We're proud that our pilot project with Clínica Romero in Los Angeles was recognized in the report. Our work to train promotoras, or community-based health educators, to educate their clients about PFL ensures that low-income, new immigrant, and Latino workers receive all the support they need to have healthy, vibrant families.

Click here to read the full report.

Don't have time to read the full report? Check out the abstract below:

Paid family leave (PFL) at the birth of a child can have positive effects on child and parental well-being, and on subsequent maternal work outcomes. Lower-income families are least likely to have access to paid leave through parents’ employers. California’s Paid Family Leave program is the most accessible of the public PFL programs to low-income working parents because of its modest earnings requirements. This study drew on California state administrative data and findings from focus groups with low-income working mothers to 1) explore how lower-income parents interact with California's PFL program and 2) better understand the relationship between PFL and key elements of family well-being, especially for economically disadvantaged families. The study found that low-income recipients valued PFL for providing parents with partially subsidized time to spend with newborn children. Parents indicated substantial confusion, however, surrounding program eligibility and other rules, and use was low, particularly among low-income fathers. Mothers reported difficulties balancing the demands of infant care and other family responsibilities with requirements and characteristics of low-wage jobs. The administrative data confirmed relatively low rates of work before and after birth among low-wage parents who used PFL, compared with those earning higher wages. The vast majority of parents at all wage levels who returned to work returned to their pre-birth employer, however. Lower-income mothers saw the program as an important support for both parent and child well-being, despite PFL’s limitations.

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