The Cost of Doing Nothing (Report)

By The U.S. Department of Labor

A new baby. A returning service member with a traumatic brain injury. A child with a cancer
diagnosis. A parent’s descent into dementia. A car accident. For many Americans, paid
leave can be a lifeline that provides time away from work to take care of these important priorities without jeopardizing their economic security. When working families
have access to paid leave, they can better keep both work and life responsibilities in
balance. Modest investments in paid leave mean new parents or caring spouses can stay
in the workforce and still meet their own and their families’ needs.

But most working families do not have meaningful access to paid leave. Only about 12 percent of private sector workers get paid parental and family leave from their employers and only about four in ten have access to paid medical leave at work in the form of short-term disability benefits. While three states have paid family leave public insurance programs (California, New Jersey
and Rhode Island), and leading employers are providing paid leave benefits to boost
recruitment and retention, that progress only goes so far. We are one of only a few nations
on earth without national paid maternity leave. The unpaid job-protected leave available
through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a critical benefit that helps many
families, but almost half the workforce is not even covered by that law. This patchwork of
partial solutions leaves far too many people without any real options.

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