Paid family leave has long been an issue for working parents, as the time spent away from work is likely causing them to take a lesser amount of income home. Earlier this year, the state of New York passed the most generous paid family leave legislation in the country, with an even more liberal leave coming from Washington, D.C. sometime this year. Already, three states offer between four to six weeks of paid family leave to employees who work a certain number of hours and meet the requirements to care for a new child or a sick family member. New York ups the ante with twelve weeks of paid leave for ALL workers in New York. This is also a huge step, because it gives men and women, full and part time employees, and employees of all company sizes the same opportunity.
New York has set up a system that will take very small employee contributions from their check, and will not cost employers or taxpayers any money. Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said that this change will allow 6.4 million workers in New York the chance to take paid time off that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. This is huge! Also, the fact that paid leave is not distributed fairly across the country, and that low-income families are affected the most because they are unable to take time off if it means not bringing home any income. As it stands, only 12% of the American working population has access to paid family leave. And of course, the top-earning players have easier access to the leave that does exist.
Not only does this change the game from a financial standpoint, but it also allows mothers to spend adequate time with their new babies, and encourages fathers to be equal partners in the child-rearing activities. Currently, 1 in 4 women return to work just two weeks after giving birth (due to financial reasons). This is arguably not enough time for the mother and baby to bond and heal from the traumatic event that is childbirth, not to mention the sleepless nights and painful process of caring for a newborn baby.
Bill Lipton, founder of the Working Families Party, notes that the presidential campaigns and popularity of candidates such as Bernie Sanders also validates progressive politics as a real factor in American culture today. Legislation such as this paid family leave passed by New Yorkers is likely to start a domino effect across the nation, as states look to California and New York to set the bar for this type of change.