Study shows Utah would benefit from national paid parental leave

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Utah residents would greatly benefit from a national paid family and medical leave plan, according to a new study by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

These findings apply not only to women in the workplace, but also families as a whole. Paid family leave would allow new fathers to spend more time helping their wives shortly after the birth of their children.

A national paid leave plan would reduce the number of families who experience economic uncertainty when they need to take leave by 79 percent, according to the study.

The Utah Legislature is considering paid leave for state employees. Only 15 percent of employees nationwide have paid family leave, and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave, according to the study.

BYU graduates Joshua and Ashley Roth said they would have benefitted greatly from a national paid leave program. The Roths struggled with balancing school and work when their twins, Lauren and Jacob, were born.

At the time, Joshua had just begun working full-time and was going to school part-time as well. Joshua said his employers were unsympathetic when he asked for time to spend with his new family.

Ashley Roth plays with her daughter, Lauren. When Lauren and her brother, Jacob, were born, the Roths had a difficult time balancing family, work and school. (Laurie Rackham)

“They acted like it was such a burden to them to even let me be at the hospital when she was being induced,” Joshua said. “I didn’t even get to spend the night that first night (at the hospital) with her. It was just such an ordeal.”

In Utah, even unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act is inaccessible for 64 percent of working people, according to the study.

Joshua eventually dropped out of school for the semester to give himself enough time to properly care for his wife and children. Ashley said having her husband home to help would have helped her significantly.

BYU students Jack and Shalysse Webster recently had a baby boy, Calvin. Shalysse is working on her bachelor’s degree online and Jack, a graduate student, works full time.

Jack received some time off to help his wife with their newborn son.

“I couldn’t have done it without him here,” Shalysse said.

Shalysse and Jack Webster had their son, Calvin, three months ago. Shalysse and Jack are grateful for the time off Jack received from his full-time job to help his new family. (Laurie Rackham)

Jack said he also appreciated the time to spend with his family. He noted time off isn’t beneficial just for families, but for businesses as well.

“I think smart businesses try to make their employees as comfortable as possible because they know happy employees are productive employees,” he said. “I think it’s a really good thing personally, and I think it’s a smart move for businesses too.”

Jack said not being provided paid leave could have created tension between him and his employer. The understanding and accommodations he received, however, gave him a heightened sense of loyalty to his employers.

At the same time, Jack acknowledged the freedom employers have to make these choices, and questioned whether they should be compelled to offer these liberties.

The choice to provide paid family leave should be up to them, according to Jack.

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