Renewed Push to Establish Paid Maternity & Family Leave

The United States has, for a long time, been the subject of criticism for not offering paid maternity or family leave to the average worker.

Most of America’s advanced, democratic counterparts in Western Europe and North America offer paid maternity/family leave as a part of their national healthcare system. Yet, in the United States, only 13 percent of the workforce has access to such a benefit, according to the Department of Labor.

Recently, though, there has been a push to nationalize a paid-leave policy for such reasons. President Obama, who has always been in favor of a nationalized maternity-leave compensation program, has repeatedly expressed his support for setting aside $2.2 billion in 2016’s budget to help a number of states set up paid-leave systems, according to Kaiser Health News.

Moreover, the Democratic party has proposed a revised Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (originally passed twenty years ago) that would create national paid-leave programs that cover up to two-thirds of a worker’s wages for up to 60 days.

The current legislation makes any type of maternity or family-related leave difficult in the United States. As it stands, mothers and those who need to take care of invalid family members are granted unpaid leave under national law, however its legal purview does not extend to companies with fewer than fifty workers or to many employees who have not notched 1,250 hours of labor at their current jobs, according to Kaiser.

Three states that do have paid maternity leave (California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) are home to some of the leading advocates for a national paid maternity leave policy. According to the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, California state law grants six weeks of leave per year at 55% of their weekly pay.

California is somewhat of a pioneer in the fight for paid-leave in the United States. However, many small business across the country oppose the implementation of policies akin to the one in the Golden State. And, with the Republican Party in control over Congress, it does not seem as though any significant changes will be made to national government’s paid-leave policies in the next couple of years. However, staffing agencies and small business owners should certainly pay attention to this issue.