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Maternity/Family Leave

"It’s a tired fact that the US has one of the worst maternity-leave policies in the world and very little to show for when it comes to accommodating mothers."

- Stephanie Hayes,

"For any expecting parent in your organization, including fathers and adopting parents:

  • DO work with them on a plan for leave and their transition into and out of leave, and offer at least twelve weeks. Be supportive, and put their needs first.

  • DO attempt to pay them, even at partial salary, for their leave. A 2012 TCG snapshot survey of one hundred and fifty-four theatres found that thirty-seven specifically offered paid maternity leave and twenty-eight offered paid paternity leave. (Did all those theatres offer paid parental leave regardless of stored-up vacation time and short-term disability? No. But they should.)

  • DON’T contact them while they’re on their leave. They’re busy figuring out how to keep a tiny person alive.

After the arrival of their child, once they return to work:

  • DO create a space for pumping, if they need it. Not all parents nurse, but take this opportunity to create the space for any future employees or artists. What does this space need?

  • DO give them some breathing room as they adjust to being a working parent. They may still need naps, and some time to get into their groove. Because once they do, they will shine."

- Devon Berkshire,

Creative Solutions: Reserve Fund

Roberta Pereira, producing director of the Playwrights Realm, spoke at the PAAL Summit 2019 in the CREATIVITY Session on The Realm’s reserve fund for emergencies and creative risks. With her advantage of being the first individual to design a leave package at The Realm, she created a benefits package that would be covered by the emergency fund. With approval from Artistic Director Katherine Kovner, The Realm supported Roberta on leave while creating a sustainable and replicable solution for following years.

Paid family leave increases women’s labor market participation in the longer term as well. Up to five years after a birth, women who had access to paid family leave at the time of the birth are three to six percentage points more likely to be in the labor force. This represents a 20-50 percent reduction in maternal labor market detachment five years after a birth.”

- Institute for Women’s Policy Research,

The Case for Leave: Numbers and Impact

In 2019, Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) launched its first national study for data gathering among its member theatres. Theatre for Young Audiences boasts 800 members from around the country who are focused on creating work for young artists, specifically. At the PAAL National Summit for Caregiver Support in 2020, Jonathan Schmidt Chapman presented numbers on maternity/paternity leave provisions from a survey conducted by Theatre for Young Audiences to their members theatres. One of the data points he highlighted included the total lack of maternity leave in theatres that fall into the $250,000-$499,999 range as well as complete lack of paternity leave for theatres in the $250,000-$499,999 and $500,000-$999,999 ranges. The survey specified maternity and paternity leave as designations outside of paid vacation time. One of the possibilities for the drops in provision as theatres grow is the legal requirement for leave offered must cover all employees, and — as organizations scale up in size — the increased cost of maternity and paternity leave coverage becomes financially significant.

At the Latinx Theatre Commons convening in Miami, FL, PAAL partnered with LTC for the first national conversation on caregiver support in the Latinx community, specifically. Themes included childcare support and leave, specifically, but also of great importance to the community was family and medical leave for elder care, specifically. The conversation was particularly potent in the younger demographic who did not yet have children but anticipated a high likelihood of being responsible for their parents later in life, likely — as one put it — right when their career trajectory was “taking off.” Culturally speaking, many participants confirmed that the expectation of family members being responsible for elder care is high in the Latinx community, specifically. These anecdotes have national data to support the concerns in terms of the labor market at large in the United States. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics published a report based on four nationally represented data sets to assess “how access to and use of employer-provided paid family and medical leave vary by race and ethnicity.” In terms of the impact of lack of leave on the Latinx community, the article highlighted that “across the various types of leave considered, the most consistent finding is that Hispanic workers have lower rates of paid-leave access than their White non-Hispanic counterparts. These differentials — in access to any paid family or medical leave, as well as to specific types of leave, such as paid parental leave and paid leave to care for a sick family member, for one’s own illness, and for eldercare — are sizable in the raw data.” When cultural expectation meets statistically sizable difference in paid leave, the Latinx community — and likely more communities of color — are, at large, deprived of the support necessary for employment sustainability when it comes to caregiving.

As our field works to improve opportunity, sustainability, and support for women of color, specifically, it must contend not only with how the lack of leave and caregiver support exponentially harms opportunities for women of color who become caregivers, but also how it exponentially benefits them when provided. A study on paid disability leave in five different states by Jenna Stearns in the Journal of Health Economics found that “these programs led to improved infant health, with the largest effects accruing to disadvantaged African American and unmarried mothers.” Equalizing impact was also documented in a study on California’s paid leave by Maya Rossin-Slater, et. al in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, finding that “[l]eavetaking increased the most for mothers who were non-White, who were not college graduates, and who were unmarried…Estimates for subgroups suggest that Black non-Hispanic mothers saw the largest absolute gain in leavetaking. Their maternity leave increased by 10.6 percentage points (relative to their baseline rate of 2 percent), for a predicted increase of about 6 weeks.”

In 2012, Theatre Communications Group published a report on their most recent benefits survey that also included a snapshot of maternity and paternity leave statistics. Only 69% of theatres who participated in the survey provided leave in any way at all, and only 36% offered maternity leave and 27% offered paternity leave, both percentages being of the 69%, meaning only 25% for maternity leave and 19% for paternity leave provided at all theatres surveyed. Nationally, the numbers align when considering that in 2018, 17% of civilian workers had paid leave, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has statistically improved leave opportunity the theatre field is not considered particularly progressive in terms of how it provides for its workers, as many of the jobs do not fulfill the FMLA requirements due to the field’s dependence on freelance, part-time, and volunteer workers.

Creative Solutions Moving Forward

One of PAAL’s goals is to make a record of creative solutions to the much needed support for caregivers that the law does not always define in a way that applies to many artists and contributors in the performing arts. Actively seeking creative solutions for paid leave opportunities can directly impact employees within an organization who need paid family leave in order to sustain employment. In an initiative started at the PAAL Summit, we began gathering creative solutions to some of the financially prohibitive needs presented to institutions seeking to support caregivers better. Roberta Pereira, producing director of The Playwrights Realm, contributed to the session on creative solutions at the PAAL National Summit for Caregiver Support regarding her maternity leave, specifically. The Realm had developed a reserve fund for artistic risk that — in the year of Pereira’s pregnancy — expanded to include support for her maternity leave, in alignment with the funds mission to support a theatre contributor. The reserve fund provided flexibility for Pereira as well as sustainability for the institution. Before presenting the numbers on paid leave from TYA, Chapman took the opportunity to voice a call to action for the theatre field at large to assess how we as a community value young people and discriminate against kids and families. He pointed out the connection between how the field fails to appropriately value art for young people and families with how it discriminates against families and young people in the culture and policies. “When we look internationally,” he adds, “the ways we view childhood in the arts and creating for young people are much more fluid…in our country, it’s very siloed.” He offered his thoughts for potential steps forward in reducing bias by encouraging the community to “create more symbiotic relationships between [‘theatre for young audiences’ and ‘theatre for adults’].”

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