Paid time off (PTO) is arguably one of the best things in the world today. While certain countries tend to have many generous options in terms of PTO days, American businesses tend to lean toward the slim side with a standard of two weeks paid vacation per year, if any at all. There are certainly exceptions to this standard, but the hard truth for most of the American working class is that an excess of time off will have to be spent without a paycheck.
Paid leave for new parents is even harder to come by than vacation time. Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees eligible employees 12 weeks of leave to care for a new baby within one year of birth, but this is without pay. (1) Interestingly, this might change in the state of California for certain cases. Lawmakers in California have introduced legislation that, if passed, would make the Sunshine State the very first out of all American to offer six months of paid parental leave. (2)
New Legislation to Give Paid Parental Leave
This recent bill, proposed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, would require six months of paid leave be offered and split between parents immediately after the birth or adoption of a child. This time is meant to allow the parents to adjust to their new roles as caretakes, the child to be properly cared for, and the family to have financial stability.
The current law in California provides six weeks of paid parental leave, plus an additional six to eight weeks of disability pay for the mothers requiring it. While adoptive and same-sex parents get less than this, California seems to be moving in the correct direction as far as parental time off is concerned. The first six months with a new child is a crucial developmental and bonding period, and no one needs the added stress of sacrificing a paycheck. (2)
If passed, the bill would be the most aggressively-paid parental leave law in the country. That being said, it will still fall quite short of the paid parental leave offered in several other countries around the globe. According to Pew Research, the United States is the only developed country to not offer a national legal mandate for parental leave, since it only has six states providing any legal protections for parental leave at all. (2, 3)
American Opinion of Parental Leave
As a country, Americans are greatly in favor of paid parental leave. A survey by Pew found that over 80% of mothers and almost 70% of fathers were in favor of having paid parental leave, with most primarily in favor of the leave being paid by the employers rather than the state or federal government. There was an almost even split in opinion, however, on whether the leave should be federally mandated or a choice by the employer. This should come as no surprise since anyone who has had a child can tell you how it turns their world upside down. Even so, finding the funds to pay for all of this time off might be difficult for either employers or the government. (2, 4)
Research has found a number of benefits to paid parental leave that make this bill, and other proposals for paid parental leave, attractive to both lawmakers and employers. These benefits include but are not limited to (2, 5):
- An improved experience in mental and physical health as a result of taking leave
- Improved antenatal and postnatal care, as well as strengthened parental bonding over a child’s life. (This focused time serves to provide long-term benefits to improve the child’s brain development, social development, and overall well-being, helping raise a healthier, stronger future generation.)
- Allows parents to easily care for any child who has serious long-term or even intermittent health care needs
What’s your opinion on parental paid leave? Would you vote for or against it? Who should pay, employers or the government (state or federal?