Paid Parental Leave in the United States

Paid parental leave, paid time off after giving birth to or adopting a new child, is the issue that seems to be dividing Congress this week, which seemingly should be a no-brainer. Paid parental leave is lacking in the United States compared to the rest of the world. The federal government does not require employers to give paid parental leave to anyone in the United States. Paid leave is up to the discretion of the employer.

For this to make since we also need to talk about FMLA or the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, or recover from a serious illness. The FMLA covers both public- and private-sector employees, but certain categories of employees, including elected officials and highly compensated employees, are excluded from the law or face certain limitations. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work for an employer with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Let me put it to you this way, an individual who has a child or adopts a child may or may not be eligible for paid leave. That person also may not take FMLA if they have not worked for a specific company for a year or worked 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. Most small businesses are exempt from giving their workers unpaid leave as well.

Some states have created paid parental leave laws, but there are no nationwide protections for new parents.

Businesses in the United States have been against paid leave for new parents because the bill for paid leave would fall upon the business owner. The business owner would either go without that position being filled or have to find a short-term replacement. Either of these situations would cost the business money, especially if paid leave becomes a requirement because the business would still pay the worker who is not working.

What do we do? Paid parental leave is good for new parents and their children. Parental leave allows parents to continue working without feeling as though they need to leave their job entirely to provide care for their young newborn. Most countries provide some sort of paid parental leave. Let’s look at what other countries do and see what the United States can do for its parents and children.

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