When a new baby enters the family, everyone’s life turns upside down. While mothers might need paid leave while they recover from childbirth, it is vital that fathers are also home to participate in family life during those earliest days.
As we wrote about yesterday, the legislature is considering H.B. 392, which would establish a family medical leave insurance program (FAMLI). The FAMLI Act would combine small amounts from employees and employers (less than one percent of wages) to create a dedicated funding stream for workers when they need time off to care for themselves or a loved one. From these small contributions, workers would receive a portion of their wages while on leave.
But it’s not just new mothers who need paid leave. When fathers are able to take even just two weeks paternity leave, they are more active caregivers – feeding, changing diapers, and rocking the baby to sleep in the middle of the night, even well after he has gone back to work. The more engaged fathers are with their children, the better developmental outcomes are for the kids, from improved cognitive ability to fewer behavioral problems.
While paid paternity leave has obvious financial benefits for the dad, it actually can boost employment and earnings for moms too. Studies from Canada and Sweden show that when men take leave, women are better able to return to work because they have a trusted and affordable source of childcare at home.
Right now, only 13% of men have access to paid leave, meaning that many fathers take far less time at home with their families than they would prefer because they simply can’t afford it. In California, a state with a similar paid leave program, one-third of men took time to bond with their children in 2014, compared to only 21% in 2007. This increase in popularity shows that men want to spend time caring for new family members, when they can afford to do so.
Paid leave provides both men and women the opportunity to provide for their families physically and financially. The benefits of an involved dad last far longer than the just during the newborn days - they can last a lifetime.
Paid leave benefits many types up families as well, including workers who have aging parents to care for, or someone who is facing a serious illness. For single workers who might not have other means of support, paid leave can be a lifeline. Everyone benefits when they have the ability to provide for their family.
Paid leave models like this have been successful in other states, and are an important measure that benefits both families’ health as well as their financial stability.
If you want to read more about the benefits of paid leave, be sure to check out MBPC’s series on the topic.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.