Working families need paid time off when they have a child. The federal government can provide paid parental leave with a relatively small investment, and in doing so it shores up family budgets and ensures continued spending by federal employees. In the short term, a lack of paid parental leave means that family income takes a harsh blow when a new child arrives and new parents must cut back on goods and services in the private-sector economy. And in the longer term, family incomes and the broader economy suffer because women who do not have access to paid maternity leave earn less over time. Men and children suffer, too, because men are generally the higher-wage earners and therefore take unpaid leave less frequently.
Paid parental leave will help the government recruit and retain the brightest minds to deal with our country’s most challenging problems. Many workers, particularly women, are attracted by more generous benefits in the private sector—76 percent of women working in large private-sector firms have access to paid parental leave, as do 48 percent of women working in small businesses, according to an annual survey of employers conducted by the Families and Work Institute. Low-wage workers may currently have more paltry access to leave, but the federal government could serve as a model employer for offering full parental leave benefits to all employees.
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