Paid Family Leave in the United States

Updated July 4, 2019

Out of 190 countries, only four do not mandate paid time off for new parents — and the U.S. is one of them. America is the only developed nation in the world that doesn’t offer paid family leave.

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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 with paid family leave 2019

Currently, there are six (6) states in the country, including the District of Columbia that offer, or will offer, paid family leave to new parents to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.

Rhode Island enacted a paid family leave law in 2014, allowing for four (4) weeks of time off — the shortest paid leave of any state. Both California and New Jersey offer up to six (6) weeks of paid maternity leave, which increases to 8 and 12 weeks respectively beginning July 1, 2020.


RHODE ISLAND
4 Weeks
CALIFORNIA
6 Weeks
NEW JERSEY
6 Weeks
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
8 Weeks
NEW YORK
10 Weeks
WASHINGTON
12 Weeks
Massachusetts
12 Weeks
Connecticut
12 Weeks

New York joined them effective Jan. 1, 2018. D.C.’s and Washington’s law will take effect in 2020, Massachusetts‘ in 2021, while Connecticut is poised to become the 7th state in 2022, and Oregon in 2023.


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.


California


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 $1,252 but usually no more than 70% of their weekly earnings.

To apply for PFL benefits, you must complete and submit a Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits or use SDI Online instead of submitting the form by mail.


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


San Francisco became the first U.S. city to guarantee new parents of all genders six (6) 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.


Connecticut


Connecticut will join 6 other states, including the District of Columbia, to offer 12 paid weeks of paid leave to care for a new baby or sick family members, plus an additional two weeks of benefits if they aren’t able to work during pregnancy.

The benefits cover 95% of lower wage earner’s pay, up to $900 a week. However, new parents aren’t eligible to start collecting benefits until Jan. 1, 2022.


District of Columbia


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.


Massachusetts


Massachusetts moves one step closer to establishing paid family and medical leave, passing the most generous paid family leave law in the country. It’s even better than Washington State’s.

Implementation will begin, in stages, starting in July 2019, offering up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected family leave per ‎benefit year, and up to 20 weeks for the employee’s own serious health condition.

The weekly benefit amount is calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly earnings and is currently capped at $850 per week.


New Jersey


New Jersey is one of the first 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. Starting January 1, 2019, employees contribute 0.08% on their first $34,400 in wages.

Under NJ’s Family Leave Insurance program, cash benefits equaling to as much as two-thirds (2/3) of their earned wages may be payable for up to six (6) weeks but no more than $650 per week.5

Effective July 1, 2020, employees may receive up to 12 continuous weeks of benefits. This is a significant increase from the six (6) weeks that employees were previously entitled to.6

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 2019 is 0.153% of an employee’s weekly wage.

Percentage of weekly wages paid during time off

2018
50%
8 Weeks
2019
55%
10 Weeks
2020
60%
10 Weeks
2021
67%
12 Weeks

For the first year of the program, employees can take up to 8 weeks of paid family leave, with a weekly benefit of 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage7 — capped at 67% when fully phased-in in 2021.

For example, in 2019, an employee who makes $1,000 a week would receive a benefit of $550 a week (55% of $1,000) but no more than $670 a week in 20121.


Oregon


Oregon will become the 8th state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave AND the first in nation to offer 100 percent wage replacement up to $1,215 weekly for low-wage workers who made at least $1,000 in a calendar year.

Modeled after Oregon’s unemployment insurance program, Oregon’s paid family leave law is believed to be the most generous in the country, guaranteeing every Oregon workers 12 weeks of paid leave for family purposes by 2023.


Rhode Island


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 $852 per week — not including dependency allowance for each child under age 18.8

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,
Cranston, RI
02920

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.


Washington State


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.9 Couples will be able to take a combined leave of up to 16 weeks.

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.10


Will other states offer paid family leave?


Most likely.

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.”11

References
  1. IN THESE TIMES, The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now
  2. How long is paid family leave in California?
  3. NCSL, Paid Sick Leave
  4. CNBC, 15 great companies for parents
  5. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Family Leave Insurance – Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR)
  6. Davis & Gilbert LLP, New Jersey Expands Scope Of Paid Family Leave And Benefits
  7. Your AWW is the average of your last eight weeks of pay prior to starting Paid Family Leave.
  8. This weekly “dependency allowance” is paid as the greater of $10 or 7% of the standard benefit rate.
  9. The Seattle Times, Washington’s new family-leave law is among the most generous in the nation
  10. The Associated Press, Family-leave measure passed by Washington Legislature
  11. The Obama White House, Bringing Our Workplace Policies into the 21st Century
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