Paid family leave policies allow workers to continue to earn a portion of their pay while they take time away from work to attend to family well-being, such addressing a serious health condition (including pregnancy); caring for a family member with a serious health condition; or caring for a newborn, newly adopted child, or newly placed foster child. Protecting working people's jobs and pay while they manage these issues is essential to ensuring that all workers can meet their health and family needs without jeopardizing their employment and income.
The United States is the only high-income country in the world that does not mandate paid maternity leave, and was ranked last among 41 middle- and high-income countries for "family-friendly policies" in a recent study from UNICEF. Just 16 percent of private-sector employees have access to private family leave through their employers, but access to paid family leave varies by race and ethnicity: Pew Research Center reported that 13 percent of White adults reported needing family leave but being unable to take it, compared with 23 percent of Latinx and 26 percent of Black adults.
Research shows that paid leave increases the likelihood that workers will return to work after childbirth, improves employee morale, has neutral or positive effects on workplace productivity, reduces costs to employers by increasing employee retention, and improves family incomes. A poll from the National Partnership for Women and Families found that 84 percent of people in the United States support a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave policy, but as the federal government has yet to address this critical protection for workers and families, some city and state governments have taken action.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see A Better Balance, National Partnership for Women and Families, and paidfamilyleave.org for more resources on paid sick leave.