Meghan Markle says paid leave for parents should be a 'national right'

Meghan Markle turns lobbyist: Duchess writes to US politicians saying paid leave for parents should be a ‘national right’ in America – and tells how she and Harry were ‘overwhelmed’ after birth of second child Lilibet

  • Meghan urges politicians to recognise paid parental leave as a  ‘national right’ 
  • She detailed growing up on a 4.99-dollar salad bar and her first paid job at 13
  • The Duchess of Sussex also revealed how both she and Prince Harry were ‘overwhelmed’ by the birth of their second child, Lilibet in June 

The Duchess of Sussex has made her most overtly political intervention yet, sending an open letter to two senior US figures on proposed parental and sick leave legislation.

Meghan said she was writing to the Congress members not as an ‘elected official….[nor] a politician’ but as an ‘engaged citizen and a parent….and as a mom’.

The extraordinary 1,030-word letter – given to supportive media to share – asked the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the Majority Leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, to consider her plea ‘on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry’.

It was written on the Sussexes new post-royal letterhead, which prominently uses their titles but not their official cyphers. 

The letter pertains to historic legislation moving through Congress, which would make 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave available to most workers as part of new federal policy.

The US is among a handful of nations that do not guarantee paid sick leave or maternity or paternity pay. 

While the issue itself is not controversial and is supported by many in the US, Meghan’s very public statement is likely to ruffle feathers and add fuel to speculation that she has political ambitions.

Meghan Markle said she was writing the letter to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Charles Schumer ‘as a mom’ and ‘on behalf of millions of American families’

The US parental leave pay debate explained 

The USA may be among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it does not offer a government-led paid parental leave scheme in 2021. 

Instead, seven states, including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts, offer their own individual forms of paid leave for new parents.

Historically, such decisions have been left for private businesses to decide whether or not employees are offered such benefits. 

But in April, President Joe Biden proposed a £163billion package of worker benefits that would see paid parental leave included.

If passed, workers could take up to 12 weeks of absence with their newborn.

The Democrat-backed policy would be funded by increasing tax on the top 1% of America’s highest earners.


She writes: ‘I’m not an elected official, and I’m not a politician. I am, like many, an engaged citizen and a parent. 

‘And because you and your congressional colleagues have a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that’s why I’m writing to you at this deeply important time – as a mom – to advocate for paid leave.’

Meghan, 40, claims the Covid pandemic has exposed ‘long-existing fault lines in our communities’ and says ‘millions of women’ have been forced to drop out of the workforce to look after their children as a result of schools and childcare providers being closed. 

In one of the most astonishing parts of her letter, she suggests her family were impoverished even though her father was an Emmy award-winning lighting director and she was educated at private school.

She says: ‘I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler – it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can’t remember) – but what I do remember was the feeling: I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky.

‘And as a Girl Scout, when my troop would go to dinner for a big celebration, it was back to that same salad bar or The Old Spaghetti Factory – because that’s what those families could afford.’

She also details how she had to work at the local frozen yogurt shop from the age of 13 just to make ends meet and, when she was older, to fill up her car.

‘I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends,’ Meghan writes. 

‘I worked all my life and saved when and where I could – but even that was a luxury – because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car.’

In a more political vein, she says many of the US’s economic systems are ‘past their expiration date’ and ‘too many Americans are forced to shortchange themselves when it comes to what matters to them’.

The duchess concedes that she and Harry are lucky enough not have had to make ‘impossible’ choices about their work and their family.

‘No family should be faced with these decisions. No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan),’ she says,

‘I understand that with everything going on these days, people might find it easy to be apathetic about what’s happening in Washington DC… but with stakes this high none of us can afford to let apathy win.

‘So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost.’

A spokesman for Meghan said she ‘cares deeply about advocating for families in the US and around the world’ and had partnered with three campaign organisations on the issue.  

The Duchess went on to detail her humble beginnings: ‘I grew up on the 4.99-dollar salad bar at Sizzler,’ she said

A slice of happy family life: Sitting next to grandmother Jeanette, 12-year-old Meghan tucks into a cake at her cousin Donovan’s birthday party in 1993

Meghan on her 11th birthday with mum Doria in 1992, seen in pictures kept by her uncle Joseph Johnson

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