Earlier this month, President Donald Trump may have expanded his campaign promises on maternity leave to apply to families, not just new mothers. In an address to Congress, the politician brought up a slightly different version of the policy largely championed by his older daughter and now unofficial White House aide Ivanka Trump, saying, “My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave.” While a detailed description for the policy has yet to be seen, we hope that the president’s change in terminology is not just an oversight but is indicative of a plan that considers the lifestyles of many families today.
The current plan Trump proposed on the campaign trail hasn’t changed since he assumed office three months ago. The real estate mogul supports proposals that include six weeks paid maternity leave that are funded by the federal unemployment insurance program, and tax deductions for parents with children under age four.
The program is problematic in its current state because it gives a narrow definition of what it means to be a parent in today’s America. The proposed plan does not include adoptive parents, guardians or any other type of non-traditional family arrangement. Most notably, the plan excludes new fathers.
A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 63 percent of American households have both parents working in some capacity. With the majority of households sharing the cost of living, it would only make sense that all new parents have the ability to welcome in a new child without taking a financial hit or risking getting fired. This is especially important for low-income workers where the decision whether to go into work or not may be a more difficult one to make. If a worker is paid by the hour, taking several days off may negatively impact his or her ability to pay the bills.
The Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks off to care for themselves or family members, is the furthest the government has gotten to making sure Americans don’t pay the price for taking care of their loved ones. However, this is not enough. While the current policy does cover adoptive children and parents of both genders, the leave is not paid and is only required of companies that meet a certain set of requirements including the employment timespan and the amount of days off the employee has used.
Paid family leave is done on a case-by-case basis among employers and even among states. Today, only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island provide paid family leave, with New York set to become the fourth state in January 2018. Having the ability to take care of your children shouldn’t be such a hard decision to make, and the lack of paid leave options makes it seem as if being able to take care of your child is a privilege of the few, not a right.
Political rhetoric often hinges on upholding “family values.” If this is indeed the case, then it’s time to get moving on a plan that will mirror the needs of families today. Trump should consider expanding his plan to ensure that families are not narrowly defined by gender, marriage or blood relation.