Bill Introduced For National Paid Family Leave Policy

It’s about damn time.

The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that does not provide any sort of paid maternity leave. In fact, it’s the only industrialized nation not to do so. All that could change with the Family And Medical Leave Insurance Act, a bill introduced today by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D -CT NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

The Family Act, as it’s being called for short, proposes an insurance plan that would provide paid family leave and paid sick leave for all workers: public or private, self-employed or full- or part-time. Workers could take time off for their own illness or that of a child, parent or spouse; it also includes both newborn and adopted children coming into the home. As described in The New York Times, the funding would be from both employers and employees. The benefits would be capped at $4,000 per month, covering 12 weeks/60 “caregiving days,” a year.

In other words, it is three months paid leave.

Currently, some families are only protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides leave without payment. While it ensures time off without losing your job, employees who take it miss out on much-needed income. It also only covers employees who have worked for their employer for at least one year (or 1,250 hours) and only includes companies with 50 or more employees, which means employees at small businesses do not qualify.

We might want to look to our friends Down Under for a even better plan: Australia has paid parental leave with 18 weeks of paid leave at minimum wage to one parent. In 2012, Aussies enacted the Dad And Partner Leave plan, which guarantees two weeks of paid leave at minimum wage for the father or same-sex partner after a baby is born. Although the minimum wage is not ideal, it is certainly better than nothing.

Currently, only New Jersey, Rhode Island and California have paid family leave laws on the books. Something better is desperately needed nationwide for working families. Maybe this could be it.  Much respect to Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. DeLauro — this is a truly pro-family piece of legislation!

[New York Times]
[Center For American Progress]

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[Image of newborn baby via Shutterstock]