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Senate Hearing Spotlights Lack of Paid Family Leave for Many in U.S.

Senate Hearing Spotlights Lack of Paid Family Leave for Many in U.S.

July 31, 2014 — Senate Democrats on Wednesday held a subcommittee hearing to draw attention to the lack of paid family leave for many workers in the U.S., McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families Chair Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who called the hearing, said it aimed to "encourage more companies and small businesses" to recognize that adopting paid leave programs "really will benefit their bottom line."

No legislation was presented at the meeting, but several witnesses shared testimony about the need for paid family leave.

Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, noted in her testimony that the U.S. is only one of two countries that does not guarantee paid maternity leave (Schoof, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 7/30).

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3), eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually to care for themselves during an illness, a sick family member or a new child (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/23).

Shabo said that only about 60% of the workforce has access to leave under FMLA, in part because small-business employees and part-time workers are excluded.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said paid family leave would positively affect the federal budget. Women who have access to paid leave are 39% less likely to need public assistance during the year after birth, according to Murray.

Others testified at the hearing that offering paid leave to workers would benefit businesses financially. Kevin Trapani, CEO of North Carolina-based Redwoods Group, said, "Paid leave users are more likely to return, which saves us the cost of interviewing, hiring and retraining" (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 7/30).