Most Americans believe the time has come for paid leave, but there has yet to be a national plan that a majority can get behind.

We know that both children and parents benefit from paid family leave. Paid leave is good for babies’ cognitive development. And when mothers have access to leave they are more likely to breastfeed for longer. When fathers or partners take parental leave it is good for mama’s mental health (which is good for children).

And if Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are elected next month, we could see changes in America’s family leave policies.

Joe Biden’s plan for parental leave

Both Biden and Harris support a plan to bring 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to American workers. The leave can be used following the birth of a child or to care for a family member’s medical conditions.

The pandemic has shined a spotlight on the need for extensive policies like these. America is the only industrialized nation without paid leave—and families are suffering for it.

Recently, PL+US Action, a national campaign to pass high-quality paid family and medical leave by 2022, hosted a “Conversations On Care” Facebook Live event with POPSUGAR. Several members of the Biden-Harris campaign, as well as Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, discussed how 12 weeks of paid leave would benefit American families.

“This pandemic has revealed now to everyone what us working women have known for generations, which is that we have all struggled on our own to try to figure out how to balance caring for our kids or our spouse or loved one or caring for ourselves when we need to and work,” said Tina Tchen, the former executive director of the White House Council of Women and Girls.

She continued, “Now women who are shouldering 80 percent of the caregiving responsibilities at home are confronted with the challenges of schools [not being] open [and] child-care centers are closing.”


“Friends and family are getting ill. People are getting ill themselves, and they have to choose between the workforce and staying home,” said Tchen.

Biden’s website echoes her sentiments. “Many parents are struggling to find child care while they go to their essential jobs, or find themselves as 24/7 caregivers trying to keep their children safe and learning while working remotely. Other parents are caring for their kids, while worrying about how they will make ends meet after having hours cut or losing their jobs.”

Biden’s plan is estimated to cost $775 billion over 10 years. It includes social safety net programs that benefit low-income families, as well as the disabled and elderly populations. It also includes tax credits for informal caregivers and professional support for caregivers of wounded warriors.

Both Biden and Harris have long supported paid parental leave for both fathers and mothers. Before she ended her presidential run, Harris called for a more generous leave plan of 6 months paid family and medical leave. She called her platform “Kamala’s Children’s Agenda” and based it on the idea that “every decision we make has a profound impact on our nation’s youngest, most vulnerable residents.”

We know that paid family leave is good for children, families and businesses. It’s time for our government to support American families by introducing comprehensive, paid family and medical leave.

[A version of this story was originally published Oct 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

[Editor’s note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]