New York Has Best Parental Leave Policy In The Country Now, So Maybe We Should All Be Starting A Family In NYC

There is no federal law mandating paid parental leave in the United States, but some states have taken it upon themselves to write better policies. And now it seems the state with the best paid parental leave policy is New York. Now if only we could get this kind of policy for the whole country.

Under a new law passed in New York state this week, parents can now take up to twelve weeks of paid time off from work to spend with a new child, including an adopted child or foster child. And the policy is available to all parents, regardless of gender, and regardless of their employer. All of which is way ahead of even the most progressive states in this area, and far, far beyond the federal government.

In the United States, only 12 percent of employees have access to paid parental leave, most of them because of their employers' policies, not because it's legally protected in their state. In fact, including New York, only four states guarantee paid family leave. In Rhode Island, employees can take up to eight weeks of paid family leave; in California and New Jersey, parents can take up to six. In all these states, including New York, parents are only paid part of their usual salaries, but this is still better than the unpaid leave guaranteed by the federal government.


Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks off, but companies are not required to pay employees a dime during that time, which effectively makes it out of reach for low-income families. The act also provides exemptions for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

It's a far cry from paid family leave in the rest of the world. The United States is one of only five countries in the world that doesn't guarantee any paid leave for new parents. Most provide at least twelve weeks with at least some pay, and the United Kingdom provides a full 40 weeks at 90 percent pay, and allows paid leave for both men and women. Even Saudi Arabia provides 10 weeks at 50 percent pay.

New York's policy, though, at least now puts the state roughly on par with other countries, or at least it will once the policy takes full effect. Paid leave will kick in initially on Jan. 1, 2018 with eight weeks of leave at 50 percent pay, and will gradually work up to 12 weeks at 67 percent pay by Jan. 1, 2021.

Hopefully by then other states will be phasing in similar policies. Or, you know, the federal government might have decided to join the 21st century themselves.

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