This is great news, and although I don’t want to initiate this post by highlighting the inferiority of the United States in respect to the care of our new mothers and babies, I will. Paid Parental Leave is something we need to educate ourselves on, and in all honesty, if I’d started with the good news you might not have finished reading this! I’m all for taking the opportunity to give our politicians and employers a smack on the bum to get moving and make this right.
As I’ve written before, the United States is the only industrialized nation, and one of only three in 185 countries, that does not mandate paid leave for new mothers. We are one in approximately 80 countries who does not offer paid parental leave for new fathers to stay home to care for mom, and to bond with the new baby. Even in Saudi Arabia, new parents get 70 days at 50% pay for both mom and dad! Sweden allows 480 days at 80 percent of pay, 60 of which are set aside for the new dad.
Although here in the US we do have the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to protect eligible parent’s jobs for up to 12 weeks, this does not provide a paycheck for new mothers and fathers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the FMLA, and it allowed me to stay home with my child when he was born, albeit mostly unpaid. Please don’t forget, that to be eligible for FMLA, one’s employer must have more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius, and an employee must have been employed there for more than 12 months and have worked 1250 hours. The employee eligibility requirement alone negates approximately 4.5 million businesses in the US. According to an analysis by Abt Associates of a 2012 survey it conducted for the Department of Labor, nearly one in four women who took leave to care for a new baby took only two weeks or less off.
Stop and carefully consider that for a moment: new moms going back to work with new incisions, with lifting and standing restrictions to which you know they may not be fully adhering. New babies who need their mothers in this formative time in their life are being denied the right to bond with their parent. In fact, this article by Sharon Lerner outlines a number of points in favor of paid parental leave as well as dramatic and true stories that will leave you reeling, and hopefully motivated to help make a change. But I’ll let you read that in your own time and move on to the good news…
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on December 22, 2015, a new paid parental leave policy for New York City employees. New York City will now provide six weeks of paid time off for maternity, paternity, adoption, and foster care leave, at 100 percent of salary – or up to 12 weeks total when combined with existing sick or vacation time to approximately 20,000 non-unionized employees. Mayor Bill de Blasio advised he would sign an executive order for the new policy to be in effect on January 1, 2016. This new paid parental leave policy brings New York City current with more generous municipalities in the country, such as Austin and Pittsburgh.
The paid parental leave trend is indeed gaining traction here in the US at the state and local level, although at this time, only approximately 12 percent of our private sector workforce has access to it. Employers not required by their state or city to offer it are also jumping on the bandwagon, and we are grateful for this support. It is not yet enough, so let’s keep pushing for more.
“Too many new parents face an impossible choice: taking care of their child or getting their paycheck,” said Mayor de Blasio. “New York City is leading by example, putting us at the forefront of paid parental leave policies around the country. This is a common sense policy that will make for healthier and more financially stable working families – making it good for employees and employers.”