The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | Iowa should follow other states in mandating paid maternity leave

Many states already have paid maternity leave; Iowa should follow suit.
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Mother holding her baby indoors

Iowa must mandate paid maternity leave.

Having a child is one of the hardest things a person can do. The first few months of a child’s life require constant attention and care from at least one parent.

Because of this, many parents — often women — will take weeks or months off work to care for their newborns. In Iowa, this comes with financial risk. The law in Iowa states that companies of four or more employees must offer up to eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

This leaves many parents in a financial trap, as they can lose between 50-100 percent of their income during the time they dedicate to their child. Iowa should follow the lead of states such as Colorado, Delaware, and Massachusetts, which have passed laws that mandate employers to pay for maternity leave.

Having a child is not cheap. New York Life Insurance estimated that during the first year of a child’s life, a parent can spend up to $20,000 just on care for their children. The average yearly salary in Iowa is $70,571, requiring a sizeable chunk dedicated to just one child per year. This is already difficult for almost everybody already working a job, but for Iowa parents who take time off without supplemental pay, this can be a devastating cost.

Many Iowa parents live paycheck-to-paycheck or rely on a dual income from their spouse to get by. Unpaid maternity leave can disrupt this, leading to further economic burdens. This could lead to some parents working extra hours to make up for lost income, leading to missing valuable time with their newborn.

There are several ways paid family leave could be implemented in Iowa. One example, the system in New York, requires employers to buy, saving the parents from buying private insurance, an insurance fund either through a private company or a state-run fund.

Paid family leave benefits employers as well. Adequate time off with economic security can alleviate the stress many new parents feel, as well as allow them proper time to be mentally and physically in the best shape to work.

The health of our newest Iowans is also why the state should mandate paid family leave. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, babies born in states with paid family leave are often healthier due to the extended care from their parents. The chances of infants being re-hospitalized after birth in these states also drop by more than half.

Many new parents also report going back to work sleep-deprived, depressed, and anxious, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. This creates a less productive employee and can disrupt the workplace as they navigate the struggles of their new work-life balance. If given the right amount of time to recover, however, employees can return just as healthy as before.

Children help to build the future of our world, but their first few months require round-the-clock care and supervision from their parents. In Iowa, many parents face economic hardships, from loss of income, and are forced to come back to work early in unhealthy shape because of our lack of mandated paid family leave.

It is time that Iowa, like many other states, mandates paid family leave to help over 1 million parents in our state.

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About the Contributor
Caden Bell
Caden Bell, Opinions Columnist
Caden Bell is a third year transfer student student at The University of Iowa majoring in Ethics and Public Policy. This is his first year at the The Daily Iowan.