Includes Link to Full 89-Page Human Rights Watch Report




Failing its Families
Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US

February 23, 2011

This report is based on interviews with 64 parents across the country. It documents the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption, employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers. Parents said that having scarce or no paid leave contributed to delaying babies' immunizations, postpartum depression and other health problems, and caused mothers to give up breastfeeding early. Many who took unpaid leave went into debt and some were forced to seek public assistance. Some women said employer bias against working mothers derailed their careers. Same-sex parents were often denied even unpaid leave.


Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US - Failing Its Families


Profiles of Parents Lacking Work-Family Supports


I. Background: US Workforce Changes and Gender Inequality

II. US Work-Family Supports and Disparate Access

Federal Laws and Bills

State Laws and Bills

Opposition to Law Reform and Counterarguments

Low and Disparate Access

III. Global Trends and Country Comparisons

Paid Leave Trends and History

Length of Leave and Transferability

Benefit Levels

Financing and Economic Impacts

IV. Real Families, Real Harms from Work-Family Policy Failings

Health Impacts

Physical Recovery from Childbirth

Postpartum Mental Health

Health Impacts on Parents Prior to Birth or Adoption

Child Health

Children’s Severe Illnesses

Emotional Health of Adopted Children

Lack of Health Insurance during Leave


Financial Hardship of Unpaid Leave

Difficulty Meeting Basic Needs

Debt and Bankruptcy

Extra Work to Offset Unpaid Leave

Career Impacts of Taking Leave and Becoming a Parent

Workplace Reactions to Pregnancy

Workplace Reactions to Taking Leave

Impacts on Promotions, Salary Increases, and Development

Derailed Careers

V. International Human Rights and Labor Standards

Rights to Paid Leave

Rights to Non-discrimination and Equality

Related Rights

VI. Recommendations

To the Federal Government

To State Governments

VII. Acknowledgements

Appendix:  Country Comparisons of Paid Leave Benefits