- May 3, 2018
- Economic Opportunity Institute
- Marilyn Watkins
Paid family and medical leave has become a top-tier policy issue. Over the past several years, a number of high-profile corporations have announced new and expanded paid parental leave programs. However, access to paid family leave remains primarily available to the already privileged. In 2017, only 13 percent of private sector employees had access to paid family leave, including 24 percent of the most highly paid tenth, but only 4 percent of the lowest paid tenth. If left solely to private sector initiative, most U.S. workers will continue to lack access to extended paid leaves to care for a new child or deal with serious health conditions. Workers who already face obstacles to achieving and maintaining good health and economy security will largely be left behind, including those in smaller companies, lower-income employees, workers of color, and gig economy workers.
The policy that Washington adopted is a strong one, based on public health research, learnings from other state programs, and community input. But it is not perfect. The discussion below points to best current practices and options to consider in designing a new program.