Researchers agree on the benefits of paid family leave. Ivanka Trump is down with the idea. And even some companies are coming around. Now a new national poll gives hope that there are a lot of parents who want a better policy than Papau New Guinea. That said, there are a lot of ways to get there. The problem is people can’t seem to agree on any of them.
The Pew Research Center looked at data from two surveys regarding leave. One had a random sample of 2,029 Americans. The other had a more specific cross-section of 5,934 employed adults who had wanted — or needed — to take time off from work (but couldn’t because of The Man). They respondents were like-minded on many subjects: 82 percent of Americans said mothers should have paid maternity leave. Comparatively, 69 percent said fathers should too. For individuals who believed in both paternity and maternity leave, most agreed mothers should have twice as much — 8.6 weeks compared to 4.3 weeks for dads. That’s the good news.
But the devil is in the details and the details are in the dollars. Though a majority of respondents thought employers should pay for leave (as opposed to the feds), how to make that happen created a schism in respondents. 51 percent said the government should require employers to provide the paid leave. However, 48 percent felt companies should be free to decide for themselves. Another 45 percent of Americans favored government tax credits for employers that provide paid leave. But 39 percent supported a system that would allow workers to set aside monthly pretax contributions. On top of that, 58 percent expressed concerns that universal access to paid leave would have a negative impact on small businesses, regardless of the research.
The U.S. isn’t the only country that’s struggled to come up with a solution, but they are one of the few to essentially not attempt to find one. Right now, only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid leave through their employers. Of the few fathers who actually took it, 7 in 10 were back to work in 2 weeks. Yet 55 percent of PEW survey participants thought people would abuse the time off. That said, it’s hard to abuse what you never had. If parents want to up America’s leave game they’re going to have to eventually get on the same team. Otherwise, American paternity leave policy will continue to be like your kid after accidentally getting into the bran muffins: completely shitty.