New York’s Small Steps on Paid Family Leave Mark a Giant Leap for USA | DCR Workforce Blog

New York’s Small Steps on Paid Family Leave Mark a Giant Leap for USA

Among industrialized countries, America is held to be unique in its refusal to recognize the need for paid family leave. However, 22 states in America have laws which mandate against the sale of a puppy dog from being sold/separated from its mother before it is eight weeks old, and three other states stipulate a seven-week window. Most people know that puppies also walk, run, play and eat solid food by the time they are four weeks old – whereas a human baby requires much longer time to gain such independence and self-sufficiency.

Women today want to work. They also have a need to fulfill their desire to have babies. It is not just personal choice in either case. Reproduction bears implications which affect the economy of their country and its very future! Imagine if more families were to opt for the so-called DINK (Dual Income – No Kids) lifestyle, how can America achieve the 2.1 per family birth rate it needs to replicate and maintain its population? Is the absence of paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave in America healthy for it as a nation?

New York’s unique solution

While California and New Jersey offer six weeks off per year with some pay, and Rhode Island offers four weeks, New York is offering up to 12 weeks. New York now has a comprehensive paid family leave program, which allows employees partially paid leave to care for a newborn and a sick family member, to be administered through its disability insurance program. New York is determined to make this work, by having the funds in place unlike Washington, which passed a similar paid family leave law in 2007. Washington intended to provide parents with $250 in weekly benefits for up to five weeks in the event of childbirth or adoption, but the state’s legislature never found the funds needed and the program was scuttled. New York funds its program by deducting $1 from the weekly payrolls of employees to fund the program. Employers have no burden to carry though some could nitpick and point to the higher expenses for employers in overtime and training. This solution makes it easier for all other states to implement a similar law as employers will have less objections to accepting this solution.

Once they’ve worked for their employer for six months, employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of partially paid family leave, which will include:

  • Participating in providing care, including physical or psychological care, for a family member of the employee with a serious health condition (as defined by the FMLA).
  • Bonding with the employee’s child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, or the first 12 months after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care with the employee.
  • Attending to any qualifying exigency (as defined under the FMLA) arising out of the fact that the spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent of the employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Beginning 2018, benefits will cover 50% of an employee’s average weekly wage with a cap at 50% of the statewide average weekly wage.
  • When fully implemented in 2021, the plan will cover 67% of an employee’s average weekly wage with a cap at 67% of the statewide average weekly wage.
  • In 2018, employees will be entitled to eight weeks of paid leave, increasing to 12 weeks of paid leave by January 1, 2021.

What’s stopping the other states?

Establishing paid family leave marks a pivotal next step in improving the equality and dignity of women in both the workplace and the home. Currently, 88% of women have no access to paid leave and many others who have access to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act find that they are not eligible for even its unpaid version, under the terms of the act. The current family law leave situation leads to different outcomes, each carrying its own unique set of economic, physical and psychological costs to the mother, the child, the job market, the country and its economy and future.

  1. Women quit the workforce, never to return, and by doing so hurt the economy and its productivity.
  2. Millions of women rush back to work within weeks of the arrival of the baby. They neither rest nor recuperate from the debilitating effects of pregnancy and childbirth, which may cause depression and anxiety at the best of times leading many cultures across the world to prescribe a complete rest for new mothers.
  3. Due to lack of paid maternity leave, the child is cared for by relatives or paid caretakers and may miss the most crucial bond with its mother as well as the intensive care needed in the early stages of its life.
  4. Similarly, the non-existence in most workplaces of paid paternity leave, forces fathers to play a far smaller role in their baby’s first days, weeks and months, when bonding is critical.
  5. Women leave the workforce to return to work after a few years, but find themselves relegated to positions of less importance as the long break in work renders their knowledge and expertise outdated.

Today, America’s population is growing thanks to the influx and growth of immigrant populations, while the fertility of native-born American women has been below the replacement level since the 1970s, and declining steadily since. So, is this move coming in time or too late? Or, would you rather say “better late than never?”

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.