NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR WOMEN & FAMILIES
| REPORT | EXPECTING BETTER
Foreword to the Second Edition of
Seven years ago, in 2005, the National Partnership for Women & Families published the rst edition of
, a comprehensive review of federal and state laws that help new and expecting parents take leave when a child arrives. Today, in this second edition of that report, there are signs of progress.
Across the political spectrum, more of our nation’s leaders acknowledge that 21st century families face signicant challenges in meeting their responsibilities at home and on the job. High-prole leaders including President Barack Obama and rst lady Michelle Obama have spoken passionately about the needs of working families. The president’s
proposed budget for three years running has included funding to speed the development of paid family leave programs in the states so that new parents can take leave from work to care for their children. And the president, the
rst lady and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis are all strong supporters of legislation that would guarantee most workers
paid sick time to care for themselves and their families when illness strikes or medical needs arise.
Since the rst edition of
, workers in some states have gained new rights that address the work and family challenges faced by new parents. For example:
In 2011, Connecticut became the rst state to pass a paid sick days law, joining the District of Columbia, in
providing many workers the right to earn paid sick time that can be used to care for an ill child or family member or to seek medical care. Two cities — San Francisco and Seattle — also provide this right;
In 2008, New Jersey joined California in establishing a paid family leave insurance program that provides new parents (and other family caregivers) with partial wage replacement during up to six weeks of family leave.
In 2007, the state of Washington took a signicant step toward establishing a paid parental leave program.
In 2007, Maine expanded workers’ ability to take unpaid, job-protected family leave by recognizing that
domestic or civil union partners often need to care for each other and each other’s children.
And, from 2006 through 2009, nine states granted new rights to nursing mothers in the workplace.
At the federal level, workers have also gained new family friendly rights. Many nursing mothers are now guaranteed
reasonable break time and a private place to express breast milk while at work, thanks to a provision in the 2010
health care reform law that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act. Expansions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 2008 and 2009 provided new leave rights to military families. And a new 2010 interpretation of the FMLA
extends unpaid, job-protected leave to a broader range of adults caring for new or ill children.
These are important victories, but more signicant progress toward securing a family friendly nation remains elusive. The nation’s political debates too often continue to reect a false dichotomy about work and family,
promoting a narrative that suggests families have all adults in the labor force by choice rather than by economic
necessity. And too few public ofcials recognize that public policies must reect the new realities of a workforce made up of workers — women and men — with signicant child and elder care responsibilities. It is imperative that
our nation’s leaders and our public policies acknowledge that workers’ economic security — and their ability to provide for their families — often hinges on their ability to take time away from work when a new child arrives or health challenges arise. Working parents need to be able to address the needs of their children and families without
jeopardizing their jobs.
This second edition of
documents workers’ rights under current state laws and the progress that states have made in promoting the economic security of new parents. In addition, a special section provides a snapshot of state policies that more broadly assist family caregivers — both parents and workers overall — in addressing the needs of their children and other family members. This report documents how far the United States has come, and how far we still have to go.