In California, the first state to guarantee paid family leave for all workers since 2004, payroll deductions fund a state-run insurance pool that allows employees to take off up to six weeks at partial income. Working parents in New Jersey and Rhode Island receive comparable benefits. New York state, meanwhile, recently passed similar laws that ensure compensation doesn’t disappear when employees pause work to care for a new child or sick relative.
The public programs provide pay for workers whose employers don’t offer the benefit — and the federal government wants to see these local efforts spread.
The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday announced it will grant $1.1 million to six states and municipalities that want to start their own paid family-leave programs. The recipients — Denver, Franklin, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; and the states of Hawaii, Indiana and Pennsylvania — will use the money to research how much it would cost to open the public aid to its residents, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said.
“Our nation has increasingly recognized we are far behind the world on this critical issue,” he said. “We live in a modern family world, and we need to stop living by ‘Leave It To Beaver’ rules.”
The United States guarantees just 12 weeks of job-protected time off to new parents — none of which is paid. The issue is also fiercely divisive: The Democratic Party believes all workers should be paid for those 12 weeks leave, while the Republican Party platform makes no mention of a paid leave policy. Republican leaders have argued such rules would damage business and discourage employers from hiring young women.