By Contributor on June 14, 2013

The best thing we can give dads this Father's Day is support for paid family leave.

"Take Time to Be a Dad Today!" exhorts a nationwide public service announcement promoting fathers' involvement with their children. But if the U.S. government really wants to promote fathers' involvement, it should adopt a proven policy: paid family leave.

Around the world, countries have for decades (in some cases for more than a century) had laws that guarantee paid, job-protected leave from work to care for new children or seriously ill family members.

A new book called "Children's Chances," published by Harvard University Press, shows that 180 countries now guarantee paid maternity leave under law, and at least 81 guarantee paid leave for fathers upon birth or adoption of a child. The United States is not one of those countries.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (known as the FMLA) enables workers with new children or family members with serious medical conditions to take unpaid leave, but about 40 percent of the work force is not covered. Many workers who are eligible for FMLA leave cannot afford to take unpaid leave. There is no national law on paid parental or family leave.

Only California and New Jersey have paid family leave insurance programs, offering up to six weeks of partially paid family leave, entirely funded by small worker payroll contributions.

A few states offer temporary disability payments to mothers after childbirth.

In all other states, paid family leave is up to the whim of employers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 12 percent of the work force has paid family leave benefits. High-income workers are far more likely to have paid family leave than low-income workers. Some workers can scrape together vacation or sick pay when a child is born, but many workers (especially those who are low income) have no paid sick leave.

Opponents of paid family leave assert that it would be too hard on businesses or the economy in today's tough financial climate. But economists, social scientists and other experts have studied various forms of paid family leave for decades and have found positive impacts on productivity, staff turnover, public health and economic competitiveness, even when times are tough.

The California and New Jersey programs have also shown good results. A 2011 survey of the California family leave insurance program reflected the views of 253 employers and 500 employees. The vast majority of employers reported that paid family leave had a positive or no noticeable effect on productivity (89 percent), profitability (91 percent), turnover (96 percent) and employee morale (99 percent). Thanks to the program, many more men could indeed "take time to be a dad."

On Father's Day, we'll no doubt hear more calls for dads to spend time with their kids. Now it's time for a national policy on paid family leave to make this feasible.

Janet Walsh is deputy women's rights director at Human Rights Watch and the author of "Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US." Follow her on Twitter: @JanetHRW She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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