img Proposals

Protecting Parental Leave
ONC Editorial

Nov 03, 2023

A three-point plan to implement and strengthen parental leave programs. (The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author, Neesha Patel, whose information can be found below.)

Big Picture

Current unpaid parental leave laws aren’t sufficient. There’s an urgent need for federal paid leave policies that will allow parents to take time off work while ensuring job and income protection.

Paid parental leave is essential for many reasons, like reconciling child care and bonding with steady income and complete postpartum recovery. America needs paid parental leave to diminish its rising maternal mortality rate and to further gender equality in society.

Operative Definitions

  1. Parental leave: An employee benefit that allows a parent to take a leave of absence from their job to care for a child. 
  2. Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA): A federal law that entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
  3. Postpartum: The period after childbirth, generally defined as the first 4-6 weeks.
  4. Maternal mortality: Death of a woman due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth.
  5. Maternal mortality rate (MMR): The number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during a given time period. 

Important Facts and Statistics

  1. Protections from the FMLA are only applicable to 60% of the workforce.
  2. The United States had a maternal mortality rate of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
  3. 52 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States occur after delivery, or postpartum.

Three-Point Plan

(1) Guarantee paid parental leave. Guarantee at least twelve weeks of paid parental leave to new parents, including adoptive parents, to ensure a smooth transition into parenthood.

(2) Ensure job protection. Ensure that the jobs and salaries of new parents are protected during their leave.  

(3) Provide a ‘back-to-work’ transition program. A transition program for parents that will include allowing parents the option to work from home or work part-time for a certain time. This will ease the process of going back to work after taking a long period of time off.

Why This Initiative Is Important:

Paid parental leave can contribute the health and well-being of mothers, in addition to progressing gender equality in America. Paid maternity leave will relieve the financial and societal pressure that mothers experience upon returning to work immediately after giving birth. Mothers will have more time to recover, both physically and mentally. Enforcing parental leave policies for both parents over solely maternity leave policies will also help bridge the equity gap. Paid paternity leave will enable the father to assist with postpartum care for the newborn, ensuring that the mother is not left alone with all of the new responsibilities that a child brings. It will contribute to a more equal workplace and to healthy family dynamics.


The following student worked on this nonpartisan proposal: Neesha Patel, University of California, Santa Barbara.


Family Medical Leave Act. Department of Labor,

“Maternal Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

“Maternal Mortality.” United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF,

“Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Feb. 2022,

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