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Businesses and Communities Benefit When Parents Have Time with Their Children

Too Small to Fail
By Too Small to Fail

Parents need time with their children in order to ensure healthy development, and our communities benefit from healthier children who can one day contribute to local economies. Unfortunately, employer policies in the United States are lagging behind those of other developed countries in following this logic.

In 2012, both parents worked out of the home in 59 percent of households in the United States, and they spent an average of just 16 hours a week with their children. Parents report wanting to spend more time with their children, but inflexible work policies don’t allow it – even when there is critical need, like illness. The great majority of U.S. workers do not have paid family leave through their employers, meaning that most parents must take unpaid time off when a baby is born, or struggle to find childcare when a child is sick. In fact, almost one in four adults report that they have lost a job or have been threatened with job loss to care for a sick child.

But while all children need bonding time with parents, babies and very young children fare better the more time that they have. Consider a recent study from Harvard Medical School that found for each additional month a baby is breast-fed, their verbal ability was higher at age 3, and I.Q. scores were higher at age 7. Unfortunately, most mothers – especially those working in low-income jobs – don’t have the work flexibility needed to breastfeed for long periods of time and cannot meet the breastfeeding recommendations of healthcare providers. In fact, about half of mothers are back at work within 40 days and do not continue breastfeeding.

When parents cannot take time off from their jobs, or are only given the option of taking unpaid time off to care for their children, they risk severe financial insecurity and this insecurity threatens the general wellbeing of their children. These effects are most acutely felt in low-income communities where children are already at risk, and where high quality childcare is not an option.

The business community plays a critical role in voluntarily stepping up and establishing workplace policies that benefit them and their families. Various employers across the country are showing support for work-family balance, and are taking the lead in recognizing that a secure workforce is good for business and good for the economy. These employers are offering options like part-time work, flexible scheduling, earned sick days, and telecommuting. By providing earned leave benefits for parents, businesses can help secure stronger workplaces and communities. 

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