Entrepreneurial Moms Don’t Need More Flowers — They Need Better Access to Paid Family Leave

Small Business Majority
3 min readMay 8, 2024

When asked, an overwhelming majority of Americans say new moms deserve to have paid time off after giving birth. Unfortunately, many members of Congress aren’t most Americans because Congress still has yet to pass the FAMILY Act, which would guarantee up to 12 weeks of partial income for new parents while they take time to recover and bond with their child. The result of this innaction is that just 27% of the U.S. workforce has access to paid family leave through their employers.

This problem is even more acute for small business owners, many of whom are solo entrepreneurs who don’t have a backup plan for when they can’t work. And those who do have employees typically want to offer paid family leave benefits — they just can’t afford to do so on their own. As we approach Mother’s Day, it’s critical that lawmakers recognize that paid family and medical leave is not just a women’s issue or a parents’ issue. It’s also a small business issue. And if we don’t establish a nationwide paid family and medical leave program, we’ll never reach our nation’s full economic potential.

This concern isn’t theoretical. Small Business Majority’s latest polling found that 59% of small business owners said that lack of access to affordable child care is an impediment to their business growth — putting a strain on their personal lives, their employees and workforce, and their livelihood. Somehow, in a country where a new flatscreen television can be bought for less than $100, American workers are still not federally guaranteed a single paid day off to care for a new child, recover from childbirth or look after a sick family member.

This reality ignores the fact that the benefits of paid family and medical leave laws are clear and wide-ranging. Not only do they improve health outcomes and economic security, they provide significant bottom-line benefits for small businesses by taking the burden of this benefit off of small employers while making it easier for them to attract and retain employees. When we’re living in a world of Amazons and Walmarts, entrepreneurs are already constantly strained to compete with these large corporations. A national paid family and medical leave insurance program would help level the playing field.

What sort of family leave legislation would be most helpful to small businesses? At the most basic level, a federal plan should:

  • Provide at least 12 weeks of partial income to care for a new child after birth, adoption or foster placement events; care for one’s own serious medical condition or a loved one’s; deal with family member’s military deployment; and to address concerns related to domestic and sexual violence;
  • Work in tandem with and supplement existing state-run plans to ensure workers and small businesses can seamlessly participate; and
  • Be self-funded with modest contributions from both employers and employee payrolls.

In the absence of a federal paid family and medical leave program, 13 states and the District of Columbia have stepped up to address the problem. Nearly all state paid family leave programs cover employers no matter their size and provide at least 12 weeks of benefits, which are capped at a maximum weekly amount that varies annually by state. But some states offer voluntary, privatized paid leave programs that are not comprehensive and do not guarantee access to paid leave for small business employers and employees.

Given the gaps in some programs, we can’t leave it all up to the states because entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of America — after all, small businesses are 99% of the employers in our country. They are our innovators, job creators and community leaders. But lack of access to paid family leave and quality childcare are consistent barriers to success — Small Business Majority’s research found that 39% of small businesses owners have missed out on opportunities and 26% have had to close their business because of childcare challenges. This is why Congress must pass policies that support and encourage small business ownership for everyone — not just for those who have the resources to access childcare or take unpaid leave.

Lindsey Vigoda is the National Quality Jobs Policy Director at Small Business Majority.



Small Business Majority

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