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Maternity/Paternity Leave (Paid Family Leave)

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Maternity/Paternity Leave
(Paid Family Leave)
State Legislative Models

Below you’ll find a menu of model state legislation (most of which has passed in at least one state) as well as guidelines for state legislators and advocates relating to paid and strengthened unpaid family leave programs that can be tailored for use in their own states. 

Here are a few key legislative models enacted or proposed in various states (for more details, read below):

THE BIG PICTURE OF FAMILY LEAVE: The 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a significant advance for working families, since it gave a large number of employees the right to take up 12 weeks off to care for a new child or take care of a sick family member. Unfortunately, the law has some severe limitations:

  • it applies only to workplaces of 50 or more employees
  • it has a number of restrictions on its use, and,
  • most importantly, provides only for unpaid leave, meaning many families can not afford the lost income in taking advantage of the program.  

In response, states have been taking action to expand the usefulness of family leave in the states (see also this guide to state progress on family leave from the National Partnership for Women and Working Families). 

These actions fall into two broad categories discussed in more detail below:

  1. Providing Paid Family Leave 
  2. Strengthening Unpaid Leave Laws

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1. Providing Paid Family Leave

PAID FAMILY LEAVE BACKGROUND:  While unpaid leave has helped millions of families, there is little question that many employees have been unable to take time to care for a new child or an ill loved one because they cannot afford the lost pay. 

In 2002, California pioneered the first paid family leave law in the country.  The law built on an existing State Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, which already insured employees against lost wages due to disability, including pregnancy. The new law then also insured that parents could take six weeks of paid leave ”“ at 55% of their regular pay -- after adopting a child or caring for a sick family member. The insurance was designed to cost workers less than $3 per month. Many states have introduced paid leave bills that build on the California initiative with longer leave and more robust benefits.

A few states have created At-Home Infant Care (IHIC) policies to provide eligible, lower-income working parents with additional income to help them defray the cost of staying home with their newborns or newly adopted children.   Currently, Minnesota and New Mexico have active AHIC programs. Montana enacted a statute creating an AHIC program, but the legislature has not yet provided funding.   

Guidelines and Models for Paid Leave

Talking Points on Paid Leave

  • Multiple studies have shown the benefits to business from making the workplace more family friendly. What family-friendly workplace legislation does is create a level playing field, where all employers have the same obligations to provide a minimum standard of benefits and therefore aren't placed at a competitive disadvantage compared to their competitors.
  • By reducing turnover, all businesses collectively benefit from a more productive workforce. As testimony by business owners around the country in support of family leave policies shows, more and more of the business community gets this point.

Other Resources on Paid Leave

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2. Strengthening Unpaid Leave Laws

UNPAID LEAVE BACKGROUND:  While paid family leave is seen as an ambitious program in some states, there are also important areas for states to strengthen unpaid leave rights for families as well.  Eleven states have enacted their own family leave statutes to expand employee rights in the private sector, and many more states have extended additional family leave rights to public employeees. These include:

  • Expanding the Workplaces Covered:  States have extended family leave coverage to smaller employers, including Maine (15 or more employees), Minnesota (21 or more employees), Oregon (25 or more employees) and Vermont (10 employee or more for medical leave and 15 employees or more for parental leave).  Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia provide leave to more part-time workers than under federal law. 
  • Extending Time for Leave:  A number of states provide for more consecutive weeks of coverage than under federal law, including Connecticut and the District of Columbia which each provide for 16 weeks of family leave time (as long as additional leave is not needed the following year).  Many more states provide additional family leave time for government employees, as much as six months of unpaid leave in states like Washington and Wisconsin.
  • Permitting Intermittent Leave: States such as California and Wisconsin give employees more flexibility to take parental leave in non-consecutive blocks of time over a year.

Guidelines and Models for Strengthening Unpaid Leave Laws

Talking Points on Strengthening Unpaid Leave Laws

  • More than 37 million employees in smaller firms are excluded from the federal FMLA and millions more with part-time schedules are also excluded.
  • Parents have no legal right under the federal FMLA to take intermittent or part-time leave to care for a new child.
  • Expanding family leave rights to additional employees is both good for our states' families but also important for the long-term economic health of our states, since time with children in the first months is often critical for long-term child development. 

Other Resources on Strengthening Unpaid Leave Laws

Go to MomsRising Maternity/Paternity Leave (Paid Family Leave) Page

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