Lack of Paid Leave Costs Americans $20.6 Billion a Year

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Paid family leave is a hot-button issue in this country. Despite the growing number of households that have two parents working full-time, the U.S. is one of the few nations that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. Many companies do offer this and similar benefits to their workers, but as a recent report [PDF] shows, the employers that still don’t are costing us. According to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress, families lose out on at least $20.6 billion each year due to the lack of paid family and medical leave in the U.S.

Bringing a new baby into the family isn’t the only reason workers may need to take time off. Leaving work to recover from illness or care for a loved one would also be covered under a comprehensive paid leave policy. “The reality is that almost every worker will need time away from their job at some point in their working career,” report co-author and Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress Sarah Jane Glynn said in a release. “But few workers can afford to take unpaid leave, putting workers who are facing caregiving responsibilities or a serious illness in an impossible bind.”

A lack of affordable childcare is also hurting U.S. families. The report estimates that this costs Americans an additional $8.3 billion a year. When workers are forced to quit their jobs or reduce their hours because their employers won’t accommodate their needs, the effects are felt beyond individual families. According to Glynn, local businesses and communities can also suffer. “Critics often argue that establishing a national paid family leave program or investing in affordable child care is too expensive, but in fact, the cost of failing to make such investments presents a substantial burden on the nation’s economy,” she says.

Paid leave is becoming a priority for both men and women entering the workforce. When family leave is offered across the board it can beneficial to the whole family. One Swedish study [PDF] found that a woman’s future earnings increase by 7 percent for every month of paternity leave taken by her spouse.

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