Women are far less likely than men to get paid leave from their workplaces, according to a new survey commissioned by American Women, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the Rockefeller Family Fund. They are also less likely to get extended leave when they need it.
In a survey of likely voters in 2014, less than a third of women — 27 percent — reported that they were paid their full wage when they took leave, but nearly 40 percent of men were paid full wages. Meanwhile, 30 percent of women didn’t receive any pay at all, but that was true for less than a quarter of men.
Women were also less likely to get paid leave when they needed to take off more than seven days to care for themselves, a sick family member, or after the arrival of a new baby. Yet men and women have a similar need for this kind of leave.
A lack of paid leave doesn’t just make it hard for new parents or those caring for the sick and elderly to balance those needs with the demands of work. It can have serious impacts on women’s financial stability. A woman who gets 30 or more days of paid family leave is over 50 percent more likely to see her wages increase afterward than those who can’t take any paid time off. Women who receive partial pay or no pay at all during leave often struggle to get by, with a third borrowing money, dipping into their savings, and/or putting off bills, while 15 percent end up relying on public assistance. Even worse, a quarter have to quit or are let go from their jobs when a new child arrives because they can’t take paid leave.
The survey found strong support among voters for a national paid family leave program, including nearly 70 percent of women and a majority of men. Such a policy garners significant support from Democrats — 85 percent — and while a little less than half of Republicans support it, a majority of Republican women are in favor. Such a program would ensure that all workers, men and women alike, could take 12 weeks of paid leave from work for a new child or to care for themselves or a family member.
But without such a policy, workers are only guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new babies or illnesses under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Even so, less than half of workers are covered by the FMLA thanks to its requirements. Just 12 percent of workers are given paid leave through their employers.
That story is different, however, in the three states that have enacted paid family leave programs: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Other states are considering their own bills. Lawmakers in Minnesota and Nebraska have introduced legislation, Massachusetts and New York have pending bills, and task forces to study the feasibility of implementing these laws have been set up in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.