A new state-by-state analysis released just days before a major White House convening focused on working families shows how little the nation supports and protects employed mothers and fathers when a new child arrives. The study, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents, is the most comprehensive analysis to date of state laws and regulations governing paid leave and workplace rights for new parents in the United States.
The analysis was conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families. The full report, which grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on enactment of select laws that expand upon federal leave and workplace protections, can be found here. California earned the highest grade, receiving an “A-.” Eleven states earned a grade of “B;” eight states earned a grade of “C;’ and 14 states earned a grade of “D.” Seventeen states received failing grades for not having enacted a single policy to help new parents who are in the workforce.
“New mothers and fathers should not have to experience financial hardship at what should be one of the happiest times of their lives,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. “Yet tens of millions of expecting and new parents struggle because our nation fails to provide paid leave and other basic workplace protections. As the president, lawmakers, businesses, workers and advocates gather in the nation’s capital next week to discuss these issues, this study shows how much work lies ahead. America’s families expect and deserve much better. We need national family friendly workplace standards now.”
Ness will be participating in the White House event on Monday to discuss the benefits to businesses, workers, families, communities and the country when employers adopt – and lawmakers enact – family friendly programs and policies.
Public support for family friendly policies like paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and pregnancy accommodations is strong. A growing body of evidence shows that they promote the health and economic security of families and strengthen businesses and the economy. Yet Expecting Better finds that no state is doing enough to provide these basic workplace supports. Most states are doing something to expand upon minimal federal protections, but not nearly all they could.
“This report shows that progress toward a family friendly America is possible, and history demonstrates that state activity can pave the way while providing needed support to working families,” explained Ness. “But the ability of working people in this country, including new and expecting parents, to manage their responsibilities at home and on the job should not depend on where they live. Lawmakers at all levels should take a close look at this study and the evidence that shows the benefits of providing leave and other workplace protections, and then move quickly to establish the standards people urgently need and deserve.”
At the national level, attention to and support for policies that support new and expecting parents has increased in recent years. Hundreds of organizations including the National Partnership are calling on Congress to pass legislation that would establish federal-level protections, including: the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program; the Healthy Families Act, which would set a national paid sick days standard; and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would help to combat pregnancy discrimination.
President Obama recently called for family friendly workplace policies, including in his State of the Union address this year. For the fifth year in a row, his budget includes a state paid leave fund that would help support states that want to create their own paid leave programs. Only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island currently have paid family leave insurance programs. And the White House Summit on Working Families on Monday will showcase policies that would help working parents and families while bringing the country’s public policies in line with the rest of the world. Members of Congress are also increasingly discussing the challenges working families face.
The United States is one of few countries that do not guarantee working people access to paid leave. Paid leave for new mothers is guaranteed in 181 other nations, and 81 nations guarantee paid leave for new fathers. The United States guarantees neither and has just three national laws – addressing pregnancy discrimination, unpaid family and medical leave, and nursing mother’s rights at work – that help some new and expecting parents. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but just under 60 percent of the workforce is eligible for its protections and many cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it provides.
To determine the state grades included in this third edition of Expecting Better, the National Partnership reviewed different but overlapping public policies aimed at helping new parents in each state and the District of Columbia. It looked at laws governing both private sector and public sector state employees. The full report is available at www.NationalPartnership.org/ExpectingBetter.
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.