Susan Smith Blakely

Would Mandatory Paid Childcare Leave Make US #1?

I discovered two things today --- seemingly independent but connected, I think.  These things are important for all women, those with children and those who love the children of others, and they are important to me.

First of all, I read that the United States of America comes in fourth in terms of being the most desirable country to live on earth.  The first three positions were awarded to Germany, the UK and Canada.  Not bad to be in fourth place, but first place is better.  However, this probably was predictable because the subject of the survey was "quality of life."  That includes stuff like paid family leave, access to affordable health care, mandatory vacations and the like.  We don't rank so well on that stuff in America.

I remember traveling in Jamaica years ago (not a contender for a top slot in this survey!) and meeting a couple from Germany.  They were on a six week vacation because the government mandated that employers provide that kind of break from the pressure and routine as a way to force its citizens to unwind, relax, enjoy life, and, presumably, be better balanced and produce more when they are working.  My family and I were trying to eke out a week away from the grind of two law practices, and the German way sounded pretty good to me at the time.  Still does.  Quality of life is important.

The second "thing" that came across my radar today also is a quality of life thing.  It seems that the DC Council is considering a paid family leave act that goes beyond anything anywhere else in our country.  This is really important stuff.  It is so stressful and anxiety creating for new mothers and fathers to leave their infants to the care of others in the first months after their births, and, many times, the new mothers and fathers cannot afford to quit their jobs and give their newborns the kind of care they require.

Here is what the proposed DC law will require that employers provide:  11 weeks of paid family leave for parents to bond with newborn or adopted children and eight weeks to care for an ailing parent or grandparent — among the most generous paid leave laws in the nation.

The proposal, released Monday to the full D.C. Council, is expected to draw support from a majority of the council, which has been discussing paid leave for more than a year. You can read more about the specifics of the proposed law in this article.

Advocates of paid family leave believe that it fills a critical need in a country where 59 percent of mothers with infants are in the workforce and only 12 percent of workers in the private sector get paid leave through their employers.  Count me among those believers.  Studies also demonstrate that both parents and children benefit from the opportunity for a parent to care for a child after birth or adoption.

In case you did not know, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national paid leave law of any kind, and only a handful of states have independently passed paid leave laws.  So, this new law that looks like it may pass in DC is a big deal.

Perhaps we can take some solace from the fact that both President-elect Trump and his daughter Ivanka talked a lot during the campaign about paid childcare leave.  A national law that is generous and treats parents, and especially women, with the dignity they deserve on this issue is what we need.

Then, maybe, we can be considered the best country to live on the planet.

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