For the last two weeks or so, my inbox has been a constant stream of incoming emails showcasing the big sales on items for mom: from flowers, to personalized mugs, to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. All of these advertisements are boasting of the perfect gift to get mom for Mother’s Day. But there is one thing all moms need that you won’t find on sale or online that far outweighs even the handcrafted card: paid leave.
Mothers are the backbone of families, they are increasingly likely to be the breadwinner in Ohio households, and they disproportionately take on caregiving duties for children and sick or aging family members. In Ohio, 85 percent of Black mothers, 62 percent of Latina mothers and 53 percent of white mothers are key family breadwinners. By having access to paid family leave, women are less likely to take a leave of absence from their jobs or exit the workforce entirely, which benefits the economy and the whole family.
Yet, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world without some form of guaranteed, legally-protected paid leave. In the absence of a national standard, only 15 percent of workers have access to paid family leave, and that drops to a mere four percent among low-wage workers. Paid family and medical leave policies provide workers with financial support that they need to take time off of work to care for a loved one or address their own health issue without risking their economic security. And for new moms, access to paid leave is critical to short-term and long-term health, increased and sustained workplace participation, and their family’s economic security.
Right now, workers in Ohio are reliant upon an employer offering paid family leave in order to have access to the policy. That leaves far too many women with no alternative other than to return to work shortly after giving birth, risking their health in the process. Narrowed paid leave policies can also leave behind adoptive parents, same-sex parents, caregivers (especially ‘America’s daughters’ who are caring for children and aging parents at the same time), and workers who need to address their own health emergency. Without access a comprehensive and inclusive paid leave law in Ohio, workers cannot balance the demands of their job and the needs of their families. And ultimately, mothers like Keiana pay the price.
“My entire pregnancy was high risk, so I was unable to work long hours. Being high risk meant that I spent at least one day per week during the final five months of my pregnancy either in the hospital or at my OB/GYN. Because of the financial constraints from being a solo mother, I had to work on the day that I gave birth (I had a scheduled C-section). I was only able to afford to take 3-weeks off before I had to go back to work. Luckily, my mother and father were able to keep my child because daycare doesn’t allow children under 6-weeks. Despite the risk of infection and immense pain of having surgery I had no other option but to go back to work. The absence of maternity leave is difficult for women, both part-time and full-time. For women it is a medical issue.”
Unfortunately, this is the reality for far too many working moms in Ohio. For many women, returning to work is the only option when unpaid leave is all that is offered. In fact, research shows that in the United States, nearly 1 in 4 women returns to work within two weeks of giving birth. Access to paid leave is critical for the health of moms and babies. It allows women the necessary time to heal, adjust to a new schedule, and attend to follow-up medical needs. The health benefits of a complete policy also include mental health improvements for new mothers. Evidence suggests that extended paid leave time is related to lower rates of maternal depression, and symptoms of postpartum depression have been shown to reduce as a result of leave-taking by fathers.
Ohio state lawmakers are working to fix the state’s paid leave problem. State Representatives Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and State Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) recently introduced bills in the Ohio House (HB 550) and Ohio Senate (SB 261) to establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program. The bills create an insurance program funded by employee payroll contributions, which allows workers to continue to earn a portion of their paycheck for up to 12 weeks of leave to:
That means working moms (and dads) can take time away from work to care for and bond with a new child without risking their financial security. This Mother’s Day, join us in telling lawmakers that what moms really need is access to supportive, family-friendly workplace policies, like paid family leave. Because no mother should be forced to choose between continuing to earn a paycheck and caring for a new child, a loved one, or their own health.
Both paid leave bills have been referred to committees in the House and Senate, but they have not been scheduled for hearings yet. Use our letter writing tools to contact the committee chairs and urge them to hold hearings on the bills: