Answer: The United States.
Every other industrialized country has come to the obvious conclusion that allowing parents to take care of their newborn child is good for the child, good for the parents, good for society and, yes, good for business as well.
The Hawaii Legislature is looking to join the rest of the industrialized world this year by passing Senate Bill 2990 and House Bill 2598. These bills would create a Family Leave Implementation Board to establish paid family leave for all workers by 2020.
This new policy would allow time for mothers and fathers to take care of their newborn or adopted children and give employees time to take care of an ill spouse or an elderly parent. It is the right thing to do, and it is about time.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is made up of 13,700 employees, with more than 70 percent of them women. Too often, teachers and many parents are forced to decide between their newborns and going back to work.
As income inequality has grown, very few families can afford taking time off to care for their newborns. This means going back to work way too early, and going against what research has shown is good for the baby and good for the parents.
It is the right thing to do, and it is about time.
Paid parental leave decreases infant mortality and increases immunizations while increasing the rate and duration of breast feeding, which research shows has many lifelong health benefits. In addition, for mothers, family leave decreases depression and stress, and paid leave allows both parents to bond with their children.
So far the only complaint about this bill has come from some in the business community, even though the current draft of the bill does not require businesses to pay any part of the family leave. Those detractors should take lessons from businesses around the world that have learned family leave is good for business.
Studies have shown that employees who are allowed to take family leave are much more likely to stay with the company, and stay for a longer period of time. As our country is dealing with the wage gap between men and women, family leave increases lifetime earnings for women. By supporting paid family leave, local businesses are sure to retain quality employees and to reduce the turnover rate and the cost of retraining.
As Hawaii is facing a shortage of more than 1,000 teachers, we must use every avenue to recruit and retain them. Allowing teachers paid family leave to take care of their newborns would ensure that fewer would leave the profession, allowing Hawaii to retain more of our veteran teachers.
Paid family leave would also be an incentive for those who want to enter the teaching profession, as they could become teachers without choosing another business only because it offers paid family leave.
As strong advocates for children, HSTA also wants to ensure that we do what is right for our keiki. Allowing parents time off to care for and to bond with their newborns gives our keiki a head start in the right direction. HSTA supports the measure that is right for our keiki, right for our teachers and right for Hawaii.
With the help of all the legislators who have been such strong advocates for these bills, let’s together finally make paid family leave a reality for all workers in Hawaii.
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About the Author
Corey Rosenlee is the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. He is a national board certified teacher in social studies, and has been a teacher for over 20 years.