Overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats want workers to have paid time off from work following the birth or adoption of a child. Paid parental leave encourages more people to come back to work after having or adopting their child, which increases labor force attachment, leads to higher earnings, and reduces use of public assistance. Paid leave also leads to better health outcomes for mothers and children.

However, traditional approaches to government paid leave programs—taxpayer funded programs or mandates on employers—have drawbacks. They discourage businesses from offering their own paid leave benefits and flexible work arrangements; they take money out of workers' paychecks, making it harder for them to make ends meet and save; and it can even encourage discrimination against women.

That's why Independent Women's Voice and Independent Women’s Forum have long sought a way to help workers who lack employer-backed paid parental leave get the financial support they want and need—without creating a costly new government program that could backfire on workers and women.

In January 2018, we published the first paper, written by IWF senior fellow Kristin Shapiro, describing our proposal to reform Social Security so workers could opt to receive paid leave benefits after giving birth or adopting a child, in exchange for delaying retirement benefits. Allowing workers to trade off future Social Security retirement benefits for current parental leave benefits could offset the costs of paid leave. It also could encourage responsible leave-taking and inspire companies to continue offering paid leave benefits when they can afford to do so.

This wouldn't require a new payroll tax. Rather than creating a new one-size-fits-all retirement program, it would improve an existing government program that workers already pay into—to make it more flexible and efficient—and better help those who truly need it.