Nation, World + Society

Paid family medical leave in the United States: Good for families, good for the economy

UCLA study shows how unpaid leave undermines economic growth

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Paid leave map
UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center

Adequate paid family and medical leave policy in the U.S. would not only increase employees’ time to care for new babies, recover from personal illness or take care of sick family members but also provide economic benefits, according to a new report led by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

The United States’ Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of leave for family or medical reasons. Yet the time away from work is unpaid and there are many restrictions on who can use it, rendering it unaffordable and/or unavailable for millions of American workers.

“Having a baby, taking personal sick leave or time off to care for a family member in the United States often comes at an extraordinarily high price,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, which issued the report, and dean of the Fielding School. “Low or nonexistent wage replacement rates make it difficult or impossible for some workers to take time away from their job. For many workers, taking leave is associated with fear of losing employment and the income that is critical to keeping their family afloat.”

The new report is based on an analysis of the most effective approaches to paid family and medical leave using data from the experiences of states in the U.S. and high-income countries that have paid leave policies in place.

Read the full news release.

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