There has been a lot happening in California with regard to employee benefits lately. Last week it was a state-wide minimum wage hike and this week, in San Francisco, it’s six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the measure.
Supporters of the measure say that lower wage workers are not able, financially, to take time off to bond with new members of the family – babies and adopted children – and that there needs to be community support to enable bonding during this important time in a child’s life.
Currently, California workers pay a small amount out of each pay check to help provide 55% of a worker’s salary for paid parental leave. San Francisco now requires that employers make up the rest, making it the first place in the nation that requires fully paid leave for new parents.
The United States is Behind in Family Leave
While many employers think helping new parents with paid time off is a drain on their budget, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not require that new mothers get paid while they are caring for their newborn. Most people may not realize that our family leave policies lag behind so drastically. Take a look at this image to see what I mean.
Even San Francisco, with 6 weeks of paid family leave, is still grossly behind every other developed nation.
The United States Federal Government does allow for up to 12 weeks unpaid leave, which is a law in place to help ensure that new parents don’t lose their jobs when they take off to care for newborns, but the family is required to foot the bill for the time off. The benefit isn’t available to everyone either. The benefit is only available for employees who work for companies with 50 or more employees, and only if the employee has worked for the company for a year, working at least 25 hours per week. These requirements actually make about 60% of workers not eligible for unpaid leave in the US.
Things are beginning to change across the US though. New York just passed a law that will gradually phase in 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents. Ohio is drafting a measure and New Jersey and Rhode Island already offer families some time off for new families. As with the increase in the minimum wage, it looks like family leave laws will have to start with the state.