The Council of Economic Advisers, June 2014 

The composition of the workforce has drastically changed over the last half-century. Almost half of the workforce is now women, married couples are increasingly sharing childcare responsibilities, and people are living—and working—longer than in the past. Given the growing number of dual-earner families, today’s workers are trying to balance work, childcare, and eldercare, as well as other responsibilities. In particular, families increasingly need to take time off around the birth or adoption of a child, for their own medical needs, or when a family member becomes ill. This evolving need for caregiving, whether for self or family, requires the ability to take time off from work. Formal sick leave policies allow workers to take a leave, usually for a short period, to recover from an illness, attend a doctor’s appointment, or care for sick family members. Formal family leave policies—both maternity leave and paternity leave—allow recent mothers and fathers to take an extended absence from work while guaranteeing that they can return to their job and continue progressing in their careers.