National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

America's Families Expect and Deserve Better: 31 States Get Grades of 'D' or 'F' in New Study

Cross-posted from Huffington Post.

On Monday, hundreds of lawmakers, businesses, workers, advocates, administration officials and President Obama will gather for a historic White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, D.C. The National Partnership is proud to be participating in the event, and our new state-by-state analysis of laws that support new and expecting parents shows just how badly the national dialogue — and quick action — to advance family friendly workplace policies is needed.

Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents is the most comprehensive analysis to date of state laws governing workplace rights for new parents. From access to paid sick days and paid leave, to protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers, we graded each state based on its family friendly workplace policies. Despite some progress since the 2012 edition of Expecting Better, this third edition finds that, even two years later, no state is doing all it could to support new parents.

The consequences of lawmakers' inaction — for workers, families, communities, businesses and our economy — are grave. By just one measure, in the year following a birth, new mothers who have access to and take paid leave are more likely than those who do not to stay in the workforce and report wage increases, with widespread economic benefits for their families and communities.

The National Partnership's study found that only one state — California — is showing real leadership in supporting new parents, receiving a grade of "A-." Eleven states earned a grade of "B;" eight states earned a grade of "C;"14 states earned a grade of "D." And 17 states received failing grades for not having enacted a single policy to help new parents in the workforce. The report paints a picture of a nation that is failing new parents and families, and we hope it will be a wake-up call for lawmakers at all levels.

New mothers and fathers should not have to experience financial hardship at what should be one of the happiest times of their lives. And a growing body of evidence shows that ensuring new parents and all workers have access to family friendly policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave has widespread benefits for the health and economic security of families and the strength of businesses and the economy.

That is what makes Expecting Better's findings so relevant, and it's what makes the White House Summit such an important opportunity to advance the workplace policies the country urgently needs — national proposals like the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program, the Healthy Families Act to set a paid sick days standard, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to combat pregnancy discrimination.

The good news is that President Obama and members of Congress are increasingly discussing the challenges working families face and calling for action. The president called for family friendly workplace policies in his State of the Union address this year, and for the fifth year in a row his budget includes a state paid leave fund that would help states that want to create paid leave programs similar to those already in place in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. But words of support only go so far.

Monday's event in Washington is the culmination of months of regional forums and national dialogue on the policy and culture changes America's women, men and all working people need in order to meet the dual demands of job and family, and to be able to lead healthy and successful lives. That event should be the start of an unprecedented effort to build upon the shared experiences of people across the country — and the research and findings of reports like Expecting Better — to advance policies that would make a real difference. It's what America's families expect and deserve.


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