We all benefit when our state’s families are strong, and our children receive the care they need after birth. To do this, parents need time to bond with their children and adjust to the associated life changes that come with a new child, free from the financial stress of missed work hours. Unfortunately, few workers have access to this essential benefit, and when parents are not able to take this time, research shows that both the parent and the child suffer.
Workers should be able to put their family first in times of need, and our polices need to be updated to ensure that workers are not forced to choose between the jobs that they need and the families they love.
Earlier today, we testified in support of LR222, a legislative resolution to examine issues related to family and medical leave. You can read our testimony below, or download a printable copy by clicking here.
You can also download our newest issue brief, Work and Family Life: Creating a Better Balance. This issue brief provides an in-depth examination of paid leave, and its benefits for Nebraska’s businesses and families.
Voices for Children Testimony on LR222
September 25, 2015
To: Members of the Buisness and Labor Committee
From: Aubrey Mancuso & Juliet Summers, Policy Coordinators
RE: LR 222
Thank you Senator Harr and members of the committee and thanks to Senator Crawford for her interest in the issue of paid family and medical leave. Nebraska is a state where family and children are an integral part of our values, but these values are not always reflected in our laws.
Statistics show us that the nature of family composition and earnings has changed significantly over the past decades in Nebraska and nationwide. Previously, the majority of children were taken care of in the home by one parent, usually the mother, while the other parent worked. Due to economic and social changes, this situation is now statistically uncommon with an increased number of children living in either dual-earner or single-parent households. The majority, or about three quarters, of all children in Nebraska have all available parents in the workforce.
These changes have increased the need for resources that ensure that workers can successfully meet the needs of both their jobs and their families and our polices have not kept pace with social change. Ensuring access to paid family and medical leave would ensure that workers can put family first during times of significant need. Attached to my testimony is an issue brief that covers research on the impact of paid family and medical leave and earned sick days for both workers and businesses that I will highlight portions of today.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was an important step in ensuring job protection for some workers who take time to care for a family member, but it does not cover all workers or ensure financial protection for workers who need family leave. Currently only 60% of all workers in the United States and less than 1 in 5 new mothers are entitled to leave under FMLA and only 12 percent of employees nationwide have access to paid family leave. Access to paid family leave is also currently disproportionately skewed toward higher wage earners. Only 5% of workers in the bottom 25% of wage earners have access to paid family leave compared to the 22% of workers in the top 10% of wage earners.
In fact, during focus groups we conducted with women with lower incomes in 2014, several referenced being forced to quit jobs and rely on public assistance programs due to the lack of paid maternity leave available through their employer. Surveys have found that about one in every ten workers who took unpaid family leave after the birth of a child used some form of public assistance during their leave. Both men and women who took paid leave versus no leave at all were significantly less likely to receive public assistance within the year after the birth. Paid leave also contributes to a much lower likelihood of having to increase the amount of public assistance received after the birth of a child.
Of particular concern to Voices for Children is the time that new parents need to care for a child after birth, foster care or adoption. New parents need time to bond with their child and to adjust to the associated life changes that come with a new child free from additional financial stress. When parents aren’t able to take the time they need with a new child during this critical developmental time, both parents and children can be negatively impacted. Research has found that mothers with at least eight weeks of paid leave are less likely to experience postpartum depression and to be in better overall health than women with less than eight weeks leave. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life due to the positive health impacts of breastfeeding on children. Ensuring paid leave helps more mothers have the capacity to breastfeed. Fathers are also more likely to be involved in raising a new child, even after returning to work, if they are able to take paid time off when a child is born or adopted.
There are also several benefits to businesses providing paid family and medical leave to their workers. In a state with low unemployment where employers continually speak to the need for more qualified workers, guaranteeing workplace flexibility can help expand the pool of available talent. Offering a statewide paid family and medical leave program can level the playing field for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses, which may not have been able to afford to offer their employees paid leave, would get the opportunity and benefits of offering a paid leave program. Large business who supply paid leave benefits to workers already may experience cost savings by taking advantage of a statewide program. With enhanced job retention, businesses can save money and benefit from being able to keep knowledgeable employees on staff with valuable and relevant work experience. Employers in states where statewide programs have already been put in place have reported a positive or minimal impact on their business overall.
We hope that this committee will look favorably on a statewide paid family leave system as an opportunity to ensure that ensure that all workers are able to put family first in times of significant need. Thank you.
 Kids Count in Nebraska Report (2013)
 The Council of Economic Advisors. (2014). The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave, 3. The Executive Office of the President of the United States. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/leave_report_final.pdf (accessed Oct. 2014).
3 Gault, Barbara et al. (2014). Paid Parental Leave in the United States: What the data tell us about access, usage, and economic and health benefits, 23. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
 Houser, Linda and Thomas P. Vartanian. (2012). Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public 7-9. Rutgers Center for Women and Work. http://smlr.rutgers.edu/paymatters-cwwreport-january2012 (accessed Dec. 2014).
 Chatterji, Pinka and Sara Markowitz. 2012. “Family leave after childbirth and the mental health of new mothers.” Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics no 15(2) (June):61-76.
 The Council of Economic Advisors. (2014). Nine Facts About American Families and Work, 12-13. The Executive Office of the President of the United States. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/nine_facts_about_family_and_work_real_final.pdf (accessed May 2015).