Story at a glance

  • The U.S. is the only country among 41 developed nations to not offer paid family leave.
  • President Biden attempted to include 12 weeks of paid family leave in his "Build Back Better" infrastructure package, but it was struck down.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stressed the importance of implementing a support system for families in the U.S. through paid family leave programs.

The U.S. has work to do when it comes to offering paid parental leave, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg recently became a father to twins with his husband, Chasten, and subsequently took paid paternity leave. He came under harsh criticism for it, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson telling his audience that, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed — no word on how that went.”

Buttigieg’s parental leave overlapped with negotiations happening on Capitol Hill over President Biden’s "Build Back Better" infrastructure package, in which the president had initially included 12 weeks of paid family leave. 

That was opposed by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who forced the legislation to cut down paid family leave to four weeks. However, it was ultimately cut out completely in order to move negotiations forward. 


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During a White House press briefing, Buttigieg discussed the status of negotiations of Biden’s infrastructure plan and stressed the importance of implementing paid family leave in the U.S.

“And the importance of it is that it’s — you know, it’s not — it’s talked about as 'time off.' It’s time to do work — good work, joyful work, meaningful work. But it’s time to do important work,” said Buttigieg.

Buttigieg also told The Guardian how important he felt paid family leave is, saying, “we still have to contend with the view that the only justification for parental leave is for women to physically recover from pregnancy and childbirth, which is of course one very important reason, but it’s far from the only one,” he said. “I know in most parts of the world it’s probably puzzling that it’s even controversial.”

Currently, the U.S. has no paid time off policy for families. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, only certain employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. 

Among 41 developed nations around the world, the U.S. is also the only one to not offer any form of paid parental leave, according to Pew Research Center.  


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Published on Nov 10, 2021