Paid family leave affects our country and our businesses and the personal lives of the parents trying to strive without it. The United States is one of only four nations in the world without a federal entitlement to paid leave for families (out of around 200 nations). So it is obvious that the “land of the free,” needs mothers (and sometimes fathers) to be provided with rights to a substantial amount of paid leave following the birth of a child.
In Canada the country provides a year or more of paid leave, with 55 percent of pay replaced. The Swedish program provides 13 months of shared leave, paying the parents 80 percent of their salaries, up to a limit. One of the current three states providing paid leave in the United States, California, allows six weeks of leave with 55 percent of usual pay replaced.
Not only was California the first state to jump on board the paid family leave boat, but their businesses say it has had little to no ill effect. A recent study found that “California companies could save $89 million under a paid leave program due to increased employee retention and decreased turn-over; The State of California could save $25 million annually, due to decreased reliance on assistance programs, including TANF and food stamps.” Many individuals currently turn to these programs when taking unpaid leave because of financial hardship.
So families have a choice. Either undergo huge pay cuts and most likely rely on state and federal assistance programs, or get paid the fair share of money they worked for and were taxed for. Parents staying at home instead of having kids in day care is more than just avoiding additional financial burdens. There is an impact on the children. The Infant Feeding Practices Study examines the changes in breastfeeding practices in California relative to other states before and after the implementation of paid leave. Findings show a 10 percent to 20 percent increase of breastfeeding during several important markers of early infancy. Meaning that the more states with paid leave, the more children will get proper nutrition as an infant, and we all know the benefits of breastfeeding: smarter kids.
Think of our country’s future. Paid family leave can be the difference that our citizens need. In Washington state the Legislature passed a paid family leave law in 2007, originally to take effect in October 2009, but the law was never implemented. Join me in supporting the well-being of our county, businesses and families and petition to reinstate the paid family leave law in Washington state.
Emily Fleshman-Cooper is a resident of Sultan.