The view from America: The U.S.’s nonexistent paid parental leave policy

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With the US in the early stages of the race to replace President Obama in the White House, candidates particularly on the Democratic side, are throwing focus onto the US’s failure to provide paid leave for new parents.

In one of the recent Democratic debates between Hillary Clinton and her main rival for the nomination Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sanders, the firebrand socialist, labeled the U.S.’s nonexistent federal paid-leave policy an ‘international embarrassment’. Clinton, quick on the heels of the senator, also noted the outrageous nature of the situation, but all of the candidates opted to look at the issue through the prism of the mother. Not one added that a new father should also be entitled to some time off work, as is the case in Europe.

The fight for paid parental leave in the US is still very much that, a battle. Only one of the many, many candidates running for the Republican nomination supports paid parental leave and he is currently struggling to get out of single figures in the opinion polls. Senator Marco Rubio, a Hispanic junior senator from Florida, intends to create a 25 percent tax credit for companies that offer a minimum of four weeks of paid leave, this is despite the fact that history has suggested that tax credits do very little to incentivize companies to do anything, nevermind give employees a big chunk of extra time off.

Surprisingly, Carly Fiorina, the only woman running for the Republican nod, is against paid parental leave, claiming it will hurt businesses and the economy. Fiorina is perhaps not the best person to turn to when considering what has the potential to hurt business, HP’s board of directors forced Fiorina to resign as chief executive officer and chair after a string of disasters.

Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate to win the Democratic nomination, is making increasingly positive noises on paid parental leave. She has in the past suggested that a nationwide law mandating paid parental leave would be politically unfeasible, but she is increasingly making it a centerpiece of her campaign.

Whoever opts to carry the paid parental leave banner in the general election next November, the candidates must not forget the dads. The lead on the issue is currently being taken by young millennial CEO’s, for example Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, recently announced that he was planning to take two months of paternity leave.

The founders of music streaming service Spotify have also announced a new paid leave plan for working parents. Any full-time Spotify employee will be able to take up to six months of 100 percent paid leave, either all at once or split into three sections, from 60 days before their child’s arrival to the child’s third birthday. All parents are included under the plan, including parents who adopt or use a surrogate.

Now that strong examples are being set in the private sector, America’s aspiring leaders must now take up the standard for American fathers.

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