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Parental Leave

Parental leave refers to the time taken off from work by employees to care for their children. The term is more inclusive than maternity or paternity leave in that it covers both mothers and fathers. By allowing either parent time off from work, employers offer families more options as to which parent will care for the child and which one will continue to be the wage earner.

Prior to August of 1993, employers in the United States were not required to implement parental leave policies. And many companies did not recognize that such flexibility and choice could be given to either parent of a child. Recognizing the need for a universal policy, the Clinton/Gore administration introduced the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993. Through the provision of this act, most employees are guaranteed a protected job, with unpaid leave, in the event that birth and care of a newborn is needed, adoption or foster care has occurred, or an immediate family member needs care. While the act gives parents more choices and job security, it does not, mandate wage replacement during the leave period. As a result, many parents are reluctant to take the needed time off for fear of losing income.

In 1999 the Campaign for Family Leave Benefits was launched. The purpose of this campaign was to address the growing concern among Americans regarding unpaid parental leave in the United States. The campaign hopes to make family and medical leave more affordable for working parents in America through research, a clearinghouse, advocacy, public education, a family leave benefits network, and an advisory committee.


"Campaign for Family Leave Benefits." In the National Partnership for Women and Families [web site]. 1998. Available from http://www.nationalparternship.org/workandfamily/fmleave/expansion/fli_launchmain.htm; INTERNET.

Decker, Kurt H. Family and Medical Leave in a Nutshell. St. Paul:West Publishing, 1999.

"Family and Medical Leave Act." In the Department of Labor [web site]. Available from http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/fmla.htm; INTERNET.

Fried, Mindy. Taking Time: Parental Leave Policy and Corporate Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.

Mandy D. Goodnight

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6