Out of 190 countries, only four do not mandate paid time off for new parents — and the U.S. is one of them.
The United States is the only developed nation in the world that doesn’t offer paid family leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of maternity leave, but only to full-time workers at companies with over 50 employees and it is unpaid.
As a result, many turn to public assistance, including the popular program Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, to cope with the loss of a paycheck.
In fact, one in four new moms in America returns to work within two weeks of giving birth. Nearly 12% return less than a week after giving birth.1
Most simply can’t afford to take time off without a paycheck. For the rest, taking time off to care for a sick family member or bond with a new child can result in workplace penalties, or even the loss of a job.
States that offer paid family leave
Only three (3) states in the country, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer up to six (6) weeks of paid family leave to employees to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
New York will join them effective Jan. 1, 2018, after passing the Paid Family Leave Benefits Law during the 2016 session. D.C.’s and Washington’s law will take effect in 2020.
Although a number of cities have passed paid leave laws for state employees, San Fransisco is the first city in the nation that guarantees paid leave for new parents in private sectors.
In Rhode Island, employees are eligible for up to four weeks of paid leave, whereas in New Jersey and California they are eligible for six weeks, and up to 12 weeks for New Yorkers.
The benefit amounts are different in each state, ranging from 55% of income in California to 67% of income in New Jersey and New York. In Washington, workers who earn less than the state average would get 90% of their income.
California leads the nation as the first to provide paid leave benefits for employees who need to “take time off” to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
Under California’s Paid Family Leave, eligible employees may take up to six (6) weeks of paid leave to be with their families.2 The weekly benefits range from $50 to a maximum of $1,173 but usually no more than 55% of their weekly earnings.
To apply for PFL benefits, you may submit a Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits (DE 2501F) form online or call the Employment Development Department (EDD) at 1-877-238-4373 for assistance.
California also became the second state, along with six other states and Washington D.C., to enact paid sick requirements, with the passage of the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act of 2014 or the Paid Sick Leave Law. Connecticut was the first.3
San Francisco became the first U.S. city to guarantee new parents of all genders six weeks of fully paid leave for a birth or adoption. That includes same sex couples, and anyone who either bears or adopts a child.
The law improves upon California’s existing legislation by mandating that employers foot the bill for the remaining 45% of a worker’s pay not covered by the state’s Paid Family Leave program.
The new law follows on the heels of policies by tech companies in Silicon Valley such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Netflix, all of which offer relatively long paid parental leave for employees.4
Netflix Inc provides up to a year paid, while Facebook Inc provides four months and Microsoft Corp offers eight weeks. Twitter Inc grants 20 weeks paid parental leave for their full-time employees.
New Jersey is one of only three states that provides paid leave benefits for employees who need to “take time off” to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
New Jersey’s paid family leave program, one of just a few in the U.S., is funded by workers through a small payroll deduction of up to $33.50 a year.
Under NJ’s Family Leave Insurance program, cash benefits equaling to as much as two-thirds of their earned wages may be payable for up to six (6) weeks but no more than $633 per week.5
Rhode Island became the third state to mandate paid leave — joining California and New Jersey. The new law allows all RI employees to take up to four (4) weeks of paid leave to bond with a newborn baby or care for a seriously ill family member.
Rhode Island’s program improved upon the programs in California and New Jersey by guaranteeing job protection to those who take paid leave.
Under RI’s new Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI), eligible employees may receive up to $830 per week — not including dependency allowance for each child under age 18.6
You may apply online at TDI/TCI Online or download a paper application to complete and return to
Temporary Disability Insurance
P.O. Box 20100,
In addition, you need to provide your employer with written notice of your intent to take a leave of absence at least 30 days before the leave begins.
New York State
New York passed the nation’s most generous paid family leave law, to take effect in 2018. Under FMLA, the New York Law guarantees paid time off — up to 12 weeks’ job-protected leave by 2021.
The program will be funded by employee paycheck deductions amounting to between 50 cents and a dollar a week. The maximum employee contribution in 2018 is 0.126% of an employee’s weekly wage.
- 8 Weeks
- 10 Weeks
- 10 Weeks
- 12 Weeks
For the first year of the program, employees can take up to eight weeks of paid family leave, with a weekly benefit of 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage — capped at 67% when fully phased-in in 2021.
For example, in 2018, an employee who makes $1,000 a week would receive a benefit of $500 a week (50% of $1,000) or no more than $670 a week in 2021.
Washington is now among a handful of states that guarantee paid family leave. It is designed to provide partial wage replacement for pregnancy-related leaves as well as for bonding with a new child.
Washington’s is among the most generous of the bunch, covering at least 12 weeks of paid leave, plus another two for complicated pregnancies.7
Weekly benefits are calculated based on a percentage of the employee’s wages and the state’s weekly average wage — up to 90% of their income but no more than $1,000 a week.
Both employees and employers will pay into the program. A person with an annual salary of $50,000, for example, would pay $2.42 a week, while their employer would pay $1.42 a week.8
D.C. is set to create one of the most generous paid leave programs in the nation — guaranteeing certain periods of paid family and medical leave to eligible employees starting on July 1, 2020.
Funded by a new payroll tax on employers of 0.62%, D.C. employers will begin paying this new tax by July 1, 2019, and employees will be able to access the new benefit beginning July 1, 2020.
D.C. promises to cover employees with 8 weeks of paid parental leave, 6 weeks of paid family leave, and 2 weeks of paid personal medical leave. Those who are receiving unemployment insurance or long-term disability payments are not eligible.
Eligible individuals who earn 150% of the D.C. minimum wage or less will receive 90% of their average weekly wage, up to a $1,000 weekly cap.
Will other states offer paid family leave?
One thing seems certain that many states nationwide will be closely eyeing these states to see if a paid leave policy — employee funded or otherwise — is something worth considering for their own state.
But what we really need is a national paid family and medical leave policy.
Whether it’s to care for a newborn, a mom who is severely ill, or a spouse battling cancer, no one should be forced to choose between a paycheck and taking care of family.
As former President Barack Obama once said during his presidency, “Family leave, childcare, flexibility — these aren’t frills. They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses — they should be the bottom line.”9
- IN THESE TIMES, The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now
- How long is paid family leave in California?
- NCSL, Paid Sick Leave
- CNBC, 15 great companies for parents
- Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Family Leave Insurance – Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR)
- This weekly “dependency allowance” is paid as the greater of $10 or 7% of the standard benefit rate.
- The Seattle Times, Washington’s new family-leave law is among the most generous in the nation
- The Associated Press, Family-leave measure passed by Washington Legislature
- The Obama White House, Bringing Our Workplace Policies into the 21st Century