The economic gains of paid leave are a key benefit to working families, but paid family leave also impacts quality of care. When workers on leave are ensured some level of wage replacement, they can better focus their attention on loved ones. People of all ages have better health and life outcomes when loved ones are present and active in their care.
For children, the availability of nurturing caregivers at the start matters for healthy development in the long-term. When children are sick at home, they need their parents to provide care, give medications and monitor their condition. In outpatient or hospital care, recovery is faster when parents are at their side and involved in follow-up care planning. For adults, morbidity and mortality is affected by social engagement, and the elderly have better disease and physical health outcomes when loved ones participate in their care.
Caregivers who take paid leave report more positive effects on their ability to provide care, compared with those who do not receive wage replacements. In a survey of California workers who accessed paid family leave, 82% reported that bonding leave “had a positive effect on their ability to care” for a new child. Positive effects were even greater for workers in low-wage jobs – 91% reported positive effects on ability to care for a child, versus 71% of those who did not use the state’s program for leave.
While new mothers continue to file the majority of bonding claims in the two states with universal paid family leave programs, the programs have been shown to increase the proportion of claims filed by new fathers. In California, the percentage of bonding claims filed by men increased from 17% in 2004-05, when the program was implemented, to 26% in 2009-10. Many managers have also reported increases in duration of leave taken by new dads. On average, the likelihood of a new father taking paid leave increased from 61% in 2004 to 86% in 2009.
For children, the benefits of paternity leave last beyond infancy. Researchers found that men who take family leave are more likely to be involved with their children in later months. For example, men who take more than two weeks of leave after the birth of a child are more likely to participate in caregiving activities nine months later.