WASHINGTON – While the world has embraced paid family leave for new moms and even dads, the U.S. is just starting to discuss whether it should be a priority and how to pay for it. But now one of the nation's most famous moms, Ivanka Trump, is throwing her weight behind making it a reality.
"Can I have a hug?" Pauline Young asks as she squeezes her daughter Brianna. When Young gave birth nearly two years ago she took three months off from work. "I could use up to six weeks of sick leave for maternity purposes. I also had a number of annual leave hours, which is the same as vacation," she told CBN News.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, employers are required to protect an employee's job for 12 weeks while they take time off after giving birth or adopting a child, but they don't have to pay the worker. Still, many companies like Young's do let workers use their accrued sick and vacation days.
It's an important time for a mom and her baby. "I mean, this is a new life that's come into the world and it's a big deal, it's a big change you know, you have so many different feelings that you're experiencing at this time as a new mother and so I can't imagine not having that opportunity to bond," says Young.
Bonding Time after Birth Is Vital
Research backs her up. Failure of a mom to spend adequate time with her baby early on can affect the child's health, cognitive development and behavior. Dr. Brad Wilcox is a sociologist at the University of Virginia. "We know that the more opportunities that babies have to bond with their parents, especially their moms, the more likely they are to flourish later in life both socially and emotionally," he says.
The Trump Plan
The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't guarantee moms pay while they're on maternity leave. First daughter and mother of three, Ivanka Trump, is using her role as presidential advisor to change that. During the campaign, she joined her father as he announced his plan to provide six weeks paid maternity leave to women working for companies that don't offer it.
"My father has created a plan that is designed to bring relief," Ivanka said at a campaign event.
"This benefit will be paid straight out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund and again this safety net will be completely paid for through savings within the program," Trump assured, taking the microphone after his daughter.
However, as President, Trump put $10 billion in his budget proposal to pay for it. Under his plan states would be responsible for determining how much a mother gets.
Support on the Hill?
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recently invited Ivanka to Capitol Hill to discuss her plans. He says lawmakers want to address the fact that many people don't have children because they can't afford to take unpaid time off from work. Still, many Republicans don't like Ivanka's plan to use tax-dollars to pay for it. On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats don't think it goes far enough.
Romina Boccia is an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation.
"Any new federal benefit, it's much easier to expand it than to ever rein it back in so that's the real concern, while this may be a very targeted and limited approach that's currently being envisioned by the president, once it's implemented it will be subject to the same special interest pressures of other benefit programs," she told CBN News.
Boccia believes the federal government could make it easier for employers to come up with solutions that work for them and their employees.
"There is a proposal in the Congress to increase flexibility for employers to provide the kind of benefit package that their employees value and sometimes that means paid time off rather than overtime compensation in the form of cash that will be taxed," she continues.
Paid Leave Catches On
Across the country, state lawmakers are paying attention to the issue. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York currently or will soon offer paid family leave and in Washington D.C., city council has granted workers up to eight weeks of leave with pay. That proposal is subject to Congressional approval.
In the private sector, there's also a push to offer generous maternity and family leave policies in an effort to retain talent. For example, Netflix let's employees take up to a year off for a birth or adoption.
"The problem arises more on the low income end, less educated women - especially those working in minimum wage jobs and other lower wage jobs. They tend to have less access to these benefits," says Boccia.
Still research and public opinion seem to be colliding. "I think what most scholars in this area would acknowledge or recognize is that having opportunities for parents to take some leave their with their child is really important to establish fundamental attachment between parent and child, and mother and child especially," says Dr. Wilcox.
Who Should Pay?
And then there's the of dilemma who should pay for it: the government or private sector? The District of Columbia is taxing businesses to pay for its program.
There's also this: Boccia argues offering women a special work benefit will actually hurt their chances of getting hired or being promoted.
Still, Pauline Young says, take it from a mom, employers should try to be accommodating.
"Jobs need to be more supportive of the family," she says.
And while Ivanka Trump will continue to use her powerful megaphone to push for paid leave, an agreement on how to get it done is still many births away.