Corporate America still has parental-leave problems

Companies are taking paid family leave more seriously, but some industries still have big gaps.

January 30, 2020

Companies across the US are finally getting wise to a simple concept: Hey, it might be a good idea to give new parents paid time off. Genius, right?

But the trend isn’t benefiting everyone equally, Bloomberg reports. In some industries, women and low-income workers dominate — and those sectors offer little or no time off.

Companies don’t treat paid leave like child’s play anymore

The advocacy group Paid Leave for the United States started tracking paid-leave policies in 2016. Since then, the picture has improved:

  • Target now covers part-time workers under its policy. Goldman Sachs allows all new parents  — not just “primary caregivers” — to take 20 weeks of paid leave.
  • In December, President Trump signed a law that extended paid leave to 2.1m federal workers.

But the group’s new report breaks paid-leave policies down by sector, and for some workers, paid leave is a pipe dream:

  • Women make up 74% of workers in education and health services. But those fields offer an average of 8 weeks of leave.
  • 9.5m people are self-employed, and independent contractors are ineligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act. That means many people have no access to paid or unpaid leave.

What’s the solution? A federal paid-leave program (which the US still doesn’t have) would help. The idea is catching on in Congress, but — surprise! — Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on how to implement it.

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