Paid Leave: Giving Moms the Gift of a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Sunday is Mother’s Day! While you’re calling your mom and thanking her for all her love and support over the years, here at MBPC we’d like to give a collective shout out to hardworking moms in Montana. And while we are doing it, we want to explore one policy solution that would take some of the load off their shoulders – paid leave.

Passed in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandated that businesses with 50 employees or more provide workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job-protected leave to care for themselves, their children, and elderly parents. This type of legislation was the first of its kind in the US and helped individuals balance job and parenting responsibilities. However, the federal program does not cover all workers and many who qualify cannot afford to take unpaid time off work.

Today, in many families, both parents have to work to make ends meet and must juggle job and childcare responsibilities. Additionally, over the past several decades, labor demographics have changed. Today, women comprise nearly half of the workforce and their income is a significant – if not entire – share of total household earnings. Because women are still the primary caregivers in many families, unpaid leave policies (if they even qualify) force moms to make difficult decisions between the workplace and home, which can create financial turmoil. Clearly, there’s a need for workplace policies that support work-family life. No one should have to face the choice between paying for food or caring for a child.

Paid leave eases this stress and provides positive economic and health benefits for the entire family. A national study found that women taking paid leave for childbirth and infant care were more likely to be employed in the year after giving birth and reported increased wages compared to women who gave birth but did not take leave at all. This suggests that women with access to paid leave are more likely to return to their same employers after taking time off. This leads to higher wages and improved career opportunities down the road. And retaining a skilled workforce allows businesses to stay competitive.

Also, continuing to get a paycheck during leave encourages mothers to attend to their own health care needs and those of their children. In fact, studies have found that infants of mothers who took time off because of paid leave were more likely to be breast-fed, have lower mortality rates, and receive regular check-ups from a pediatrician. And we all know that taking the time off to bond and care for a child can have positive development benefits for children into the future. Furthermore, moms whose employers provide paid leave are more likely to take needed time off to care for themselves and take preventative health care measures, which helps reduce the chance of having greater health problems later in life.

Paid leave is a gift all moms should have the opportunity to use this Mother’s Day. Check back on our website to see our upcoming work on paid leave and learn how other policies like a state earned income tax credit help moms make ends meet.

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