Science & Tech

How family leave policies fail working families

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Standard work schedules impede job performance, impair children's education

In her book, “The Widening Gap: Why American Working Families are in Jeopardy and What Can be Done About It,” S. Jody Heymann of the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed survey data to describe the “national caregiving burden.” She has exposed the growing gap between demands on parents and resources provided by government and employers. Asking employees to keep a diary of interruptions in the work week to meet family needs, Heymann found an extraordinary commitment by working parents. Working women were found to carry a disproportionately large load of caregiving in families while receiving less help at home and being hemmed in by far less sick leave time or work flexibility than men. Examining children’s educational achievement, Heymann found that parents whose children had reading and math test scores in the bottom quarter were more likely to lack paid vacation leave, sick leave, and work flexibility.