Congratulations to the Big Apple for becoming the first state to implement a 12-week paid family leave policy.
As of March 30th, employers in the state of New York will be required to offer both men and women up to 12 weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. In addition, the mandate covers those who need time off to care for a seriously ill family member. There are four other states that have mandates in place but none of them are as beneficial as the one recently passed by New York. For comparison, California and New Jersey only guarantee six weeks and Rhode Island only guarantees four weeks of paid leave.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have a law guaranteeing paid maternity leave to new mothers. As a nation, the United States has put the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into place. The act requires employers to offer some kind of time off but it does not require the employer to pay for that leave. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has reported that two in five American women of childbearing age do not qualify for job-protected leave under the FMLA. This is due to the multitude of stipulations and conditions that face any employee seeking paid leave under the FMLA. Employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and they must work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
The state of New York will fund the paid family leave through “nominal” weekly paycheck deductions that will cost employers nothing. This is an essential portion of the program because it will help to discourage gender bias during hiring.
The benefits will be phased in over the course of a three-year period. Beginning in 2018, both full- and part-time employees who have been at their jobs for at least six months will be able collect up to 50% of their pay. They will be able to take up to eight weeks and over the course of the following two years, that period will increase to 10 weeks. The program will be fully implemented in 2021 and workers will then be able to take 67% of their weekly salary for 12 weeks.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been a passionate and vocal advocate for paid family leave. After the budget was finalized and this policy was officially enacted, Cuomo stated, “In a time defined by vitriolic hyper partisanship and when people have lost faith in their government’s fundamental ability to address the critical challenges of our time – in particular, the growing income inequality in our country, New York State has once again come together to get things done.”
The paid family leave policy will prove to be incredibly helpful to single-parent households and unmarried mothers. Parents will be relieved of the burden of having to choose whether to spend more quality time with their children or going to work to support their family.
Federal paid family leave has been a hot topic recently in politics. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both vocal supporters of a federal paid family leave policy while many Republicans see the issue as highly controversial.
Fingers crossed that New York is the first of many states to take a stand in support of families.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.