With Mother’s Day approaching, a new report released this week shows the U.S. is failing to do all it can to help the nation’s newest working mothers and fathers.
The report, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents, points out that the U.S. is one of about four modern countries that does not provide federally-mandated maternity leave for new mothers. In contrast, 178 countries provide moms with newborns some type of employment protection, and 54 extend those laws to fathers as well.
“As a nation, I would say that we are failing our families,” Vicki Shabo, one of the authors of the report, told Progress Illinois in a phone interview Thursday. “Some states have done better and improved, but in general we fare pretty poorly.”
This is the second time this report, which grades each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia on an A through F scale measuring how well they provide legal protections for new parents, has been published since 2005.
Shabo, director of the family and work program at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said in the seven years since the first report was released, the country has moved towards enacting more laws that provide for paid sick, maternity, and paternity leave, but added that much has remained the same.
“The fact that we don’t provide basic protections that allow people to earn enough to feed their families is also preposterous. For the average family without sick days - if a worker is lucky enough to get unpaid sick time - three and a half unpaid days away from work is equivalent to that family’s grocery budget for the entire month,” Shabo said.
While no state received an “A” rating from the authors of the report, Illinois ranked near the top of the list by earning a “B-” for enacting legislation that provides comparatively relaxed job tenure rules, more time for medical, and maternity and paternity leave for public-sector workers. Overall, Illinois ranked 10th out of the 50 state, and D.C., for enforcing laws that go beyond the basic protections provided in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Conversely, 18 states earned an “F” rating.
Currently, the Illinois legislature is sitting on two bills that would further increase working parents’ rights. The Healthy Workplace Act would mandate that employers provide at least seven days of paid sick leave a year, which could be used to to care of oneself or sick family members. And the Illinois Family Medical Leave Act, the state’s version of the similar federal legislation.