LGBT Families and Parental Leave

Parental leave with pay when a new child joins the home is an important support for working families, yet most U.S. private sector workers do not have this benefit. In the United States, the national Family and Medical Leave Act requires only unpaid leave. Only two states (California and New Jersey) currently offer paid parental leave, and a handful of others offer temporary disability insurance to birth mothers after childbirth. States that do offer such paid leave generally fund their programs through small payroll deductions into a state-wide insurance fund, minimizing the impact on any particular business.

For the most part, it is up to employers to decide whether to offer this benefit.  Some employers, especially larger ones, do so with good results. Other employers would like to, but can’t without the help of a social insurance fund.  As of 2008, only 9 percent of civilian U.S. workers had paid family (including parental) leave, and among the lowest-income workers, only 3 percent had such leave. Some workers can apply other paid leave when they have children, such as sick or vacation leave, but such leave is far from universal, especially among low-wage employees. LGBT parents face additional hurdles in accessing any parental or family leave, even unpaid leave.

Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental human rights group, is interviewing parents in the U.S., including LGBT parents, about their experiences with unpaid parental leave, and the impact on their families.  The interviews will be used for a report (using pseudonyms, not actual names of interviewees) and for making recommendations on U.S. law and policy.

Interviews last about 25-30 minutes. Please contact Janet Walsh at walshj@hrw.org if you have experienced parental leave with limited or no pay and are willing to be interviewed.

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