The trend of employers offering paid family leave or increasing the amount of paid family leave already offered is rapidly growing in popularity, especially over the last few years. Several states passed their own paid family leave programs, and more efforts within other state legislatures are in the works across the US to keep the trend going. The US is one of two countries (the other being Papua New Guinea) and the only industrialized country that doesn’t pledge its citizens paid family leave.
There is an existing law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 that provides eligible employees with unpaid leave for 12 workweeks in a 12-month period for certain medical or family reasons and protects them from losing their jobs when this extended leave is needed. Eligible employees include those who have worked for their employer for at least 12 nonconsecutive months and are employed under an FMLA-covered employer. FMLA is a first step for the US towards the beginning on a federal paid family leave law.
Paid family leave bills have been presented in Congress in the past, with a notable one called the FAMILY Act (Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act) presented back in 2013, and every year thereafter. The FAMILY Act would allow people to receive a portion of their pay when they need medical or family time away from their jobs for 12 weeks. Surprisingly, the FAMILY Act or any other paid family leave bills have not been passed into law yet. By creating state level paid family leave laws, state and local governments are fueling the way into a federal paid family leave law in the near future.
Currently, the District of Columbia and eight states have paid family leave programs in place: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. In the past three years, the amount of states that offer paid family leave has tripled, if you include Washington D.C. This amount of momentum at the state level has created push among 2020 presidential nominees on the issue. Contenders such as Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker support the creation of a federal paid family leave act and are willing to discuss serious policy solutions surrounding the act.
The next couple years show high potential for a federal paid family leave policy to begin taking form and build upon in the following years. Members of both major political parties are showing support for the act, and are willing to have a discussion about it. Surveys from states that have implemented a paid family leave program have shown few economic consequences. In fact, benefits such as employee satisfaction and lower turnover have been reported by employers. Implementation of a paid leave program is predicted to save employers money in the long run despite initial costs.
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