The Status of Paid Parental Leave in the United States - American Society of Employers - Emily Price

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The Status of Paid Parental Leave in the United States

parental leavePaid parental leave is a critical policy that provides employees with the opportunity to take time off work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child while receiving a portion of their regular pay. While many countries around the world have implemented paid parental leave policies, the United States has been slow to catch up.

Current Paid Parental Leave Laws

Currently, the United States does not have a federal law mandating paid parental leave for all employees. Instead, we rely on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child.

Some states have taken steps to implement their own paid parental leave programs. At this time, only a portion of the country (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington) and the District of Columbia, has established paid family leave programs that provide partial wage replacement during the leave period. Fortunately, several companies and organizations voluntarily offer paid parental leave as part of their benefits package.

Progress in Recent Years

Despite the lack of comprehensive federal legislation, the issue of paid parental leave has gained significant attention in recent years. Advocacy groups, employees, and policymakers have emphasized the importance of providing paid leave to support new parents during a crucial time in their lives.

In 2019, Congress took a step forward by passing the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA), which granted federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. While this was a positive development, it only impacted federal employees and not the broader workforce.

Public and Corporate Support

Public opinion has increasingly favored paid parental leave, with polls showing that a majority of Americans support a national paid family leave policy. This sentiment has put pressure on both state and federal lawmakers to take action.

Many progressive companies have also recognized the value of paid parental leave as a tool to attract and retain talent. Leading tech giants, such as Netflix and Microsoft, have implemented generous parental leave policies to support their employees during this important life event.

Challenges and Roadblocks

Despite the growing support, several challenges remain in establishing a comprehensive paid parental leave policy in the U.S.

Cost Concerns: One of the main challenges is the perceived cost burden on employers, especially small businesses. Critics argue that providing paid parental leave may lead to increased operational costs and reduced profitability for companies.

Political Polarization: Paid parental leave has become a politically divisive issue, with differing opinions on how it should be implemented, funded, and whether it should be mandatory or voluntary.

Limited Access: The current state-level programs leave a significant portion of the workforce without access to paid parental leave, particularly in states without such policies.

Economic Impact: Some opponents argue that paid parental leave may have negative effects on the economy, leading to workforce disruptions and potential strains on businesses.

Future Outlook

While progress has been slow, there are signs of hope for the expansion of paid parental leave in the US. Some lawmakers continue to advocate for comprehensive federal legislation to bridge the gap between states with and without paid leave policies. Additionally, the growing awareness of the importance of work-life balance and family support may further drive discussions on this issue.

According to ASE’s newly released Workplace Flexibility Survey, of the 177 companies that responded, only 42 (23.7%) reported having a paid parental leave policy.

ASE Connect

ASE Members, to access the full 2023 Workplace Flexibility report, visit your ASE Member Dashboard.

Non-members can request to purchase here.




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