Paid Family and Medical Leave
Making the Case for Prenatal to Three Policies
Every child deserves a strong start in life. The foundation we provide for them shapes their future and the future of our communities. We have to get it right.
During the first three years of life, the brains and bodies of infants and toddlers make huge gains in development. Babies’ brains develop faster from birth to age three than at any later point, and their early experiences—both positive and negative—build the foundation for brain and body architecture that will support their ability to learn and their overall social, emotional, and physical health.
Parents and caregivers need dedicated paid time off, so they are able to bond with and care
for their young children during these critical stages of development. Moreover, paid leave is essential for allowing families to take time off if their children have a serious health need or a family member gets sick.
We must act now to ensure that children grow into socially, emotionally, and physically healthy children who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life.
The Need for Paid Family and Medical Leave
The time after the birth or adoption of a baby is an essential time of development for babies and families. A baby’s early relationships with parents and caregivers nurture brain connections that form the foundation for all learning and relationships that follow.
Only 15% of working people in the US have access to paid leave through their employers. This means too many working parents with very young children are forced to choose between taking the time they need to care for a new child or risk losing their job or income.
When babies have serious health needs, having their parents there can improve their recovery. Having that time can also help parents learn how to best care for their sick children.
Black and Latinx families are most impacted by the lack of comprehensive paid leave policies. Families of color are less likely to have access to paid leave through their jobs.
The Opportunity to Expand Access to Paid Family and Medical Leave
Creating a permanent comprehensive paid family and medical leave program will ensure that parents and caregivers have the paid time off they need to care for their young children without jeopardizing their financial and job security.
Eight in 10 voters support a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy that covers all people who work.
Paid leave improves outcomes for families, employers, taxpayers, and the economy.
- When parents and caregivers have dedicated time at home with their young children, they have time to attend well-child medical visits and ensure that their children receive all necessary immunizations.
- These practices lower infant mortality and reduce the occurrence and length of childhood illnesses.
- Paid leave is also associated with health benefits for new mothers, including declines in depressive symptoms and improvement in overall health.
- When parents can attend to a child’s early medical needs, infant mortality and the occurrence and length of childhood illnesses are reduced, in turn lowering private and public health costs, as well as the need for working parents to take time away from work.
- Paid leave can give parents and other caregivers time to search for quality child care that meets the unique needs of their families, thereby facilitating greater productivity when they return to their jobs after leave.
Calls to Action
- Infants and toddlers must be our highest priority. They need our investment in paid family and medical leave now because they only get one chance at a strong start.
- This is our chance to make a powerful commitment to our youngest generation.
- Policymakers must invest in comprehensive paid leave policies that embody the following core principles:
- Accessibility for all working people;
- Meaningful duration of leave and a benefit level that makes taking leave financially possible for everyone;
- Affordable and cost-effective for workers, employers, and government;
- Comprehensive to cover full range of medical and family caregiving needs;
- Inclusive in the definition of “family”; and
- Protective against adverse consequences for taking leave