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69 Percent of Americans Support Paid Paternity Leave — But Who Should Pay For It?

Topics: Data & Research

Nearly 7 out of 10 Americans feel that new dads should have access to paid paternity leave, according to a new study from Pew Research Center. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed say that mothers should have paid time off. The study also found broad support for paid leave due to serious medical conditions — 85 percent said workers should be able to take paid time off for their own health issues, while 67 percent supported paid leave to care for a family member.

paternity leave
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Workers’ wishes diverge from the current reality in the United States, where only 60 percent of workers are eligible for unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act, and only 13 percent have paid leave from their employers. Higher earners are more likely to have access to paid leave than lower earners. Only 37 percent of respondents to Pew’s surveys who earned less than $30,000 per year had access to paid leave.

The Benefits of Paid Leave — and the Costs of Not Having Access to It

“Many lower-income leave takers say they faced difficult financial tradeoffs during their time away from work, including 48% among those who took unpaid or partially paid parental leave who say they went on public assistance in order to cover lost wages or salary,” write Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, Nikki Graf and Gretchen Livingston at Pew Research Center.

The benefits of paid leave — for both moms and dads — are clear. For lower income families, paid leave might mean staying above the poverty line. For higher income families, it makes it possible to balance having a family and having a career. Even employers benefit — but doesn’t necessarily mean they want (or are able to) shoulder the cost.

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“You are going to have a much more productive employee, and you’ve also got an employee who has better health, their children have better health,” said a Denver business owner and working mother in an interview with The New York Times. “But it is hard in the front. It’s a huge expense.”

Who Should Pay for Paid Leave?

A majority of respondents to Pew’s surveys felt that employers should cover the costs of paid leave, including parental leave, and not the government:

About three-quarters of Americans who support paid leave for mothers (74%) or fathers (76%) following the birth or adoption of a child say pay for time off should come from employers, and a similar share (72%) of those who favor paid medical leave for workers with a serious health condition say the same. When it comes to who should cover the cost of paid leave for workers when they take time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition, a smaller majority (59%) of paid-leave supporters say pay should come from employers, while about two-in-ten say it should come from federal (22%) or state (20%) government.

Despite this, Pew reports “no consensus” among respondents about a federal government mandate to employers requiring paid leave. Fifty-one percent said the government should require employers to provide paid leave, while 48 percent said it should be up to employers.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you in favor of paid leave — and if so, who should pay? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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