Nearly eight in 10 parents are outraged that the U.S. has no federal paid family leave laws for new moms and dads, our recent poll found. 

Our survey of 2,000 parents of children 0 to 18 examined how paid family leave affects their lives. It found that 72% believe the government has no idea what it means to raise a family while living paycheck to paycheck.

President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill – which proposes four weeks of paid time off for parents, among other measures such as climate change and healthcare – is currently stalled in Congress. 

But on Jan. 19, Biden said during a press conference, “I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law.” It’s unclear whether that will include paid family leave. 

Even if paid family leave is salvaged within the bill, 75% agree that four weeks is not enough time to raise a newborn or recover from a pregnancy. 

Twenty-eight percent believe new parents should receive at least 11 to 20 weeks of paid leave to adjust to parenthood, and 22% think 21 to 30 weeks is a more appropriate time frame for new moms and dads. 

How does the U.S. compare to other countries?

The U.S. ranked last on the list of 41 nations that mandate paid leave to new parents, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study. Estonia offers more than 80 weeks of paid leave, and other countries, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan and Lithuania, provide parents with over a year’s worth of paid time off. 

Six in 10 respondents (62%) said they’re aware that the U.S. is one of six countries that doesn’t offer paid family leave for parents on a national level.

Ruth Milkman, a professor of labor studies and sociology at the City University of New York:

“The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world where this is the case – in fact, most developing countries have better policies than we do. The reasons are complex but strikingly parallel to the situation with national health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is a start on this but it does not provide universal coverage. All other rich countries do so.”

“I agree that four weeks is not ideal, but it certainly is better than zero,” she continued. “Sadly though, the prospects of Build Back Better becoming law appear to be slim in any case.”

What do employers offer?

More than six in 10 working parents (62%) said their employers offer paid maternity/paternity leave, but 30% don’t have that benefit. And over half (56%) also have access to childcare benefits from their job, while 35% do not. 

When it came to taking time off to care for their first child,

  • 14% said the most paid time off their employers offered them was only four weeks
  • 11% saying they had six weeks of paid parental leave
  • 4% got up to 10 weeks.

After having their first child,

  • 77% said they felt pressured to return to work immediately because they feared losing their job
  • 73% felt pressured to return because they were afraid they couldn’t make ends meet at home.

That may be why,

  • 72% of parents feel they have to choose between raising their children and earning a paycheck
  • 69% admitted the lack of national paid family leave in the U.S. has made them rethink whether or not they want to have more children.

Most Americans don’t have access to paid family leave

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 89% of private industry workers and the same percentage of civilian workers didn’t have paid family leave as of March 2021. 

However, some states such as New York, New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia have enacted their own laws to provide parents with paid family leave.

OnePoll infographic: 8 in 10 outraged by no federal paid family leave law

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of parents shared they’ve considered moving to another state that offers those benefits on a state level.

Milkman noted that except in the few states that have state paid family leave programs, workers only have access to paid leave if their employers provide it.

“Employers do so primarily for managerial and professional workers, while low-wage workers have access to paid leave much less often,” she said. “Those without [paid family leave] access are forced to choose between the well-being of their children and their incomes. Many risk being fired if they put their families first.”

This OnePoll online survey was conducted on January 14th 2022, with 2,000 parents of children 0-18. As members of AAPOR – the American Association for Public Opinion Research, OnePoll researchers adhere to the principles and actions set out in the AAPOR Code.