RVA Parenting: Should new parents get paid leave?

RVA Parenting: Should new parents get paid leave?

(WWBT) - Should parents be guaranteed paid parental leave, and who should get it?

It's been an increasing national debate as major companies launch longer, more inclusive and better paid parental leave programs, and it's a conversation that came to a halt in the Virginia General Assembly less than a week ago.

Welcoming a new child into the family brings many precious moments laced with exhaustion, recovery, figuring each other out, and some of the best memories a family can share.

It's why some companies, such as Facebook, now tout four-month paid leave policies.

The reality for most new US parents is not even close to that.

According to the Department of Labor, only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.

The Family and Medical Leave Act will protect jobs for many workers, but many parents say going without pay means staying home for a long period of time is not an option.

It's why Republican Del. Peter Farrell, a new dad himself, sponsored a bill in Virginia that would provide tax incentives to small businesses that provided paid parental leave.

"There's no question there's an emotional component of this for me too," said Farrell, of Henrico, who recently welcomed a new daughter.

"But this could impact a lot of people," he said.

Farrell says when parents bring home a newborn "it completely changes their life" in just the first 24 hours.

He says he didn't want to mandate companies to provide the benefit, but he did want to see more parents experience it.

"It is about the child," said Farrell. "And it needs to be about the child. And that's what we want as a party and as a state trying to help families. We should want the parents to be focused on the child. And feel good about that and feel like they're setting up everything to be supportive parents because that
has a lot of impact on a lot of things later on."

But as quickly as the bill went before a subcommittee, it died. The same day.

Jodi Roth with the Virginia Retail Federation spoke to us on behalf of about 1,500 small businesses that were opposed to the bill from the start. She says it would only help the bigger small businesses.

"They feel it will unlevel the playing field for them," explained Roth. "They'll be competing for good employees and staff. They feel like it would be a misuse of their tax dollars."

Certainly paid leave doesn't come without cost. Someone has to pay for it. And for small businesses, especially, that cost could be debilitating.

It's a debate that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

President Obama's 2016 budget will include more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage States to develop paid family and medical leave programs.

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