A report out today by the National Partnership for Women and Families says many working mothers don’t get much of a break when they have a baby. Jodi Grant, the group’s Director of Working Family Programs, says the study is the most comprehensive report ever done at the programs and policies in each state available to new parents. They’re specifically looking at programs that let a parent take time off while having a baby, let the parent keep that job, and give any benefits to the worker while they’re taking that leave. One thing the report found is that America “does not to anywhere what it should do,” she says, to help new parents and their babies. Grant’s group, the National Partnership for Women and Families, helped draft a bill that became a federal law, the Family Medical Leave Act, which she says is still the best protection for working families. The federal law lets a worker take off up to 12 weeks, for pregnancy-related disability as well as caring for a newborn. Looking at state laws, Grant says some need to do a lot more, but there are also examples of programs that work at the state level. While Iowa rated a D-plus, Grant says that was better than nearly 20 states. Pregnant women who work for an employer in Iowa that has four or more workers are entitled to up to eight weeks of “job-protected” leave for pregnancy and childbirth. Of course Grant says that means if they take time off for health problems it cuts the time they can take to bond with a newborn — and while it allows a parent to take time off without losing the job, it doesn’t require that they be paid during that time. It also doesn’t cover adoptive parents or fathers who’d like to take some time from the job to get acquainted with their new child. She points out working families often need more time to line up childcare for the new baby. A lot of childcare centers won’t take an infant under 10 or 12 weeks of age, saying their immune systems aren’t developed. So new parents need to go back to work so they don’t lose that job, but find childcare’s just not available. Charlotte Nelson is Executive Director of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women. She says family leave’s especially important as Iowa leads in the proportion of families in which both parents work outside the home.She says Iowa’s one of the top states for having both parents, and single parents, in the workforce. While she says the national figure’s close to 78-percent, in Iowa more than 80-percent of married women with children are in the workforce. The “Mother’s Day” report finds California’s the best state with up to 6 weeks of paid leave for both new mothers and fathers…but 19 states have no law at all dealing with time off for new parents.
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