Advocacy Tool

Paid Family Leave Sample Op-Ed

Download Files Feb 1, 2018

Writing an op-ed in your local newspaper is an effective way to get the attention of your community and policymakers on paid family leave.

Use the following example to advocate for paid family leave. Be sure to personalize the text and make it relevant to your community! For more information on how to write an op-ed, click here. If you’d like assistance submitting an op-ed to your local paper, email us at policycenter@zerotothree.org.


Example: Upgrade America by Introducing Paid Family Leave


When the World Wide Web was born in 1993, it was groundbreaking. Another breakthrough that year –the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed by the U.S. Congress, offering protected time off work for people who were welcoming a new baby or caring for a sick loved one. That historic legislation acknowledged a major shift in using national policy to support working families. Unpaid leave and job protection was a huge step forward, but even then, it didn’t go far enough. Now fast forward 25 years. We’ve upgraded our computers, cell phones and wardrobes, but policies to benefit American infants, toddlers and families are stuck back in the days of Nokia flip phones. FMLA is overdue for an upgrade.

Today, 62 percent of mothers with infants are in the labor force. This means that a large number of those contributing to the American economy are also dealing with the physical, emotional and psychological demands of having a newborn or newly adopted child. They are making sure that their babies get the essential love and attention they need in the first months of life. As parents, we know that being able to take time off to give our children a healthy start in life, without risking financial security, is critical for a healthy work environment, a healthy home environment and – ultimately – a healthy economy.

The first days and months of a baby’s life are critical to a child’s strong development. In the first three years, brain connections form at the astonishing rate of more than a million a second, as learning proceeds at lighting speed. These connections lay the foundation for all future learning. As the famous psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner stated, in order to flourish, “every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” Positive, consistent relationships during a baby’s earliest days result in an individual who is better equipped for success in school and in life. This paves the way for bigger returns down the road, including a higher-quality workforce and strong economic growth.

Paid leave policies also yield significant benefits for employers by reducing staff turnover and the subsequent costs associated with training and hiring new staff. These costs can amount to upwards of 150 percent of a salaried worker’s annual pay or 50 to 75 percent of an hourly worker’s annual pay.

[INCLUDE AN EXAMPLE FROM YOUR STATE OR COMMUNITY. IT CAN BE RELATED TO YOUR STATE’S LAWS OR AN EXAMPLE FROM A LOCAL BUSINESS OR PROGRAMS.]

Despite these benefits, only 13 percent of the workforce receives paid leave through their employers. Less than 40 percent of women have personal medical leave through an employer-provided disability program, which provides partial pay to women recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. The percentage of employers providing fully-paid maternity leave through a disability program fell from 16 percent in 2008 to just 9 percent in 2014, leaving most working moms and dads without access to paid leave.

Think back to the technology that was introduced in 1993. As groundbreaking as it was then, we wouldn’t want to use it today. In 2018, we have given up flip phones and rely on smart phones. We don’t go to Blockbuster; we stream movies. Technology has advanced and we advanced with it. But while the science of early child development has come incredibly far in the past 25 years, policies to help working families are stuck in the past. Paid leave is a proven engine of economic stability and growth that gives today’s workers and our future workforce – their babies—the best chance for success. Now is the time for Congress to create a federal paid family leave program to benefit all families —including those who live in [NAME OF YOUR STATE.] It’s time to upgrade and to put America’s working families first by passing a national, robust, paid family leave policy.

[AUTHOR’S NAME, TITLE AND ORGANIZATION (IF APPLICABLE)]

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