Today, a bipartisan group of experts from the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institute (AEI-BI) announced that paid leave for American workers was an “issue whose time has come.” This consensus statement is from their report, “A new vision for paid family leave,” which wastes no time in noting that the U.S. is the only developed country lacking such policy, something America’s workers know all too well.
The AEI-BI report acknowledges support for broad paid family and medical leave policies, of the kind that polls show are favored overwhelmingly (82%) by American workers. Such policies encompass the ability for workers to take paid leave to care for a family member or for a personal illness, or parental leave. However, they chose to focus on the latter at this time, in part due to the time constraints and lack of cost information for the former.
Of particular import, and a critical point for LGBTQ families, they agree on a gender-neutral policy, treating mothers and fathers alike. The report pointed out and documented the expanded role of fathers in caregiving, driving home the point for equality. The AEI-BI proposal calls for all workers to have access to eight weeks of paid parental leave. Although this is not the recommended or recognized standard 12-week program, the authors of the report felt it is a good place to start.
Beyond parental leave, workers and their families also need paid leave. Family caregiving extends beyond the first few weeks after the arrival of a new child and the care that is needed changes over time. Approximately 20 million workers in the United States need family and medical leave each year – and nearly four-fifths of them need the time to deal with serious medical needs of their own or a loved one. Research from 2014 revealed that about one-third of adults were providing care to a family member aged 50 or older, and 44 percent said they expected to do so within the next five years.