New Report: Employing and Engaging Families with Young Children, 2024

Paid Leave

Paid leave supports employees who need time off to care for themselves or their families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17 percent of civilian workers have access to paid family and medical leave. This hurts U.S. businesses as well, with the combined effect of a broken child care system and a lack of paid family and medical leave leading to high rates of turnover and lost productivity to the tune of $36.9 billion each year.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Approximately 90,000 of Pennsylvania’s private employers offer some level of paid family and medical leave benefits to their workforce. Yet, 71% of all private companies, employing 3.5 million workers, are not offering paid family and medical leave benefits at all. As such, the enactment of a state paid family and medical leave program will improve the business conditions in the vast majority of the state’s private employers, thereby boosting the retention and productivity of 66% of the private sector workforce. Read more in the report from Children First: Paid Leave and Medical Leave, an Essential Investment in Pennsylvania Business and Employment.

Paid leave encompasses several types of leave that support employees when they need to care for themselves or others. All leave should be paid rather than unpaid, as paid leave is associated with better health and well-being outcomes, stronger attraction and retention of employees, improved employee morale, productivity, and loyalty.

Sick and safe leave

Sick and safe leave is leave for employees to care for themselves or a family member during a temporary, short-term medical issue, such as illness; to attend to a critical safety need, such as domestic violence or sexual assault recovery; or for preventative health care, such as an annual well visit or a prenatal doctor appointment.

Children recover more quickly from illness and injury when parents are available to care for them, and workers with 10 or more paid sick days are more likely to access preventative health care services.

The American Medical Association encourages employers to create sick and safe leave policies that allow employees to accrue paid time off and use time to care for themselves or a family member.

Overall, 79% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid sick leave. However, there are significant disparities in access. Just half (49%) of workers who make an average of $13.25 per hour have paid sick leave, compared to 92% of workers whose earnings put them in the top 25 percent.

Parental leave

Parental leave is leave for the birth, adoption, or acceptance of foster placement of a child that is separate from vacation or sick leave.
The United States is one of two nations worldwide that does not have a federal guarantee for paid parental leave.

Just 23% of private industry workers (and 26 percent of public sector workers) have access to paid parental leave through their employer. For workers in the lowest income bracket, the number drops dramatically to 6%.

The American Public Health Association, the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Policy Council recommend a minimum of 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Family and medical leave

Family and medical leave allows employees to take paid time off to care for a long-term medical issue for themselves, their children, or a loved one or to address needs during a long-term absence from work, such as a military deployment.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, access to paid family and medical leave “is associated with improved physical and mental health for new parents, decreased infant mortality, financial security for caregivers in the short- and long-term, and improved connections to the workforce, particularly for women, who are more likely than men to be caregivers for children and older adults.”

40% of U.S. workers have access to short term disability insurance, which covers paid leave for an employee’s illness or injury but does not cover care for a child, spouse, or other family members.

Nine states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – and the District of Columbia have enacted paid family and medical leave laws, up from four states in 2016.

Parental involvement leave

Parental involvement leave allows a parent to take an afternoon or a day off to attend a school performance or athletic event, volunteer at a child’s school or otherwise take care of a child’s needs.

According to the National Education Association, children whose parents have time to support their social, emotional and academic development:
  • earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs;
  • attend school regularly;
  • have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school;
  • are more likely to graduate and go on to post-secondary education