I’m passing along this request for your comments (and possible participation in an interview) about paid and unpaid parental leave. I’m not involved in the project, but I think it’s vital to have LGBT voices heard in studies like these.
Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental human rights group, is interviewing parents (including LGBT parents) about their experiences with paid and unpaid maternity and paternity leave, and the impact on their families. The interviews will be used for a report (using pseudonyms, not actual names of interviewees) and, depending on the findings, for making recommendations on US law and policy.
Paid parental leave is considered a human right under several international treaties (not ratified by the US), and 177 countries now have laws guaranteeing paid parental leave. Only a few, including the United States, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Australia, do not have national laws on paid parental leave. Australia is about to fall out of these ranks by offering 18 paid weeks starting in 2011.
In the United States, the national Family and Medical Leave Act requires only unpaid leave. Only two states (California and New Jersey) currently offer paid parental leave, and a handful of others offer temporary disability insurance to mothers after childbirth. States that do offer such paid leave generally fund their programs through small payroll deductions, minimizing the impact on any particular business.
For the most part, it is up to employers to decide whether to offer this benefit. Some people are fortunate to work for generous employers, but the majority of US workers do not have paid parental leave benefits.
The lack of legally required paid parental leave with job protections hits low-income families the hardest. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008, only 9 percent of civilian US workers had paid family (including parental) leave, and among the lowest-income workers, only 3 percent had such leave.
Research shows that paid parental leave can reduce infant mortality, improve immunization rates and health outcomes for mothers and babies, increase fathers’ participation in child care, improve breastfeeding initiation and duration, strengthen women’s connection to the workplace, avoid family poverty spells, and reduce businesses’ recruitment and training costs. Studies in the US have shown negative health and economic implications of the minimal paid parental leave benefits in this country.
Please post a comment about your experience!
When you gave birth or adopted your kids, did you take parental leave? Was it with or without pay? How long was your leave? How did this affect breastfeeding? Your health? Your baby’s health and access to immunizations? Your family’s finances? How did this affect your work and career? How else did the lack of paid parental leave affect you and your family? Do you know other parents who have had little or no paid parental leave?
And contact Janet Walsh at Human Rights Watch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are willing to share your experience in a short interview.
To learn more about Human Rights Watch, visit www.hrw.org.