What Would It Cost to Have Mandatory Parental Leave?

It's no secret that the United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid parental leave for new parents. It's also embarrassing. Although there has been some movement to get more parents paid leave many companies are still reluctant to make it a reality. The reason? Cost. Companies are afraid of what it will do their bottom line. They're not alone. The government hasn't done much better. It hasn't been able to pass a universal bill for paid parental leave. Ever. The best it's done is offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 2016, this is unacceptable.

Right now, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that offer paid parental leave through employee-paid payroll taxes. In New Jersey paid leave programs financed through employee deductions cost less than one dollar a week. It doesn't get much cheaper than that! But yet, we as a nation still come up with excuses as to why it can't work. In New Jersey, eligible workers can get up to six weeks of paid leave as well as weekly benefits that equal 2/3 of their weekly wages, up to $595. It seems pretty fair to me. At least parents won't have to worry how they're going to pay for the necessities, like diapers and formula while they're taking care of a newborn.

On the West Coast workers can get up to six weeks of paid leave at about 55% of what they regularly earn a week. Each worker pays an average of $30 into the paid leave fund. According to a survey, this program has not hurt businesses. The majority say it has either had a positive or no negative effect on things like performance and profitability. It's pretty much a no brainer. If you support your workers, they will work for you. If people don't feel as though they are being punished for having kids they will be more open to do a good job and stay on the job.

There has been a lot of simple math research done on the dollar amount cost of paid parental leave. When all is said and done, the math shows paid parental leave would cost less than $800 a year. This seems like a win-win to me. You're not weighing down the system but you are helping parents continue to earn a living while they are bonding with their children.

Despite numbers like that, many companies have not jumped on board the paid leave bus because they're afraid it would hurt them in the long run. But some companies agree that losing talented workers will cost them more than offering paid leave. For example, over at Google, they have seen fewer women leave since they increased their paid time off from 12 to 18 weeks. Executives say it will cost more to find and train a new employee than it will to give current workers paid time off. Amazon and Adobe are among other companies that offer paid leave.

Instead of focusing on ways why mandatory paid parental leave won't work, let's find ways to make it work. Would it be so bad to institute a national program like they have in New Jersey? Let people pay into the system to get something out of it when they need it the most. Although they would not get full salary, a piece of the pie is better than nothing at all.

As companies and the government debate the issue parents and babies will continue to suffer. Mothers will be forced to go back to work before they are physically ready. Fathers may not even have any chance to stay home at all. Babies will not have that precious bonding time.

Can we do better for our families? I think we can. Do we want to? I don't think we do. If we did we would have figured it out by now. It's not rocket science. Companies and governments can blame it on the bottom line but until attitudes change, families will continue to suffer.