The United States has a rough track record when it comes to how it treats new parents, ranking last of the 36 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Maternity leave in the United States is regulated by labor law, but only requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, and only if they work for a company with fifty or more employees. For US workers at companies with fewer than 50 employees, there is no legal right to maternity leave - whether paid or unpaid. This idea results in only 12 percent of Americans receiving paid parental leave, with this number being even worse among low-income families and families of color, where the amount can be as low as 5 percent.
Only eight states have publicly funded paid maternity leave: California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Connecticut, and Oregon.
California’s new law for paid parental leave, the New Parent Leave Act, took effect in 2019. This rule allows for new parents who work for a company with at least 20 employees to take leave for up to 12 weeks.
Massachusetts also granted paid family leave in 2019 with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (MA PFML). Like in California, the MA PMFL provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who work at companies where the employer pays into the unemployment insurance fund. This means that if you work in another state but commute to Massachusetts, you will be able to receive this paid family leave.
In New Jersey, new parents can take up to six weeks of partially paid parental leave, thanks to the New Jersey Family Leave Act.
Rhode Island’s Parental and Family Medical Leave Act guarantees employees up to 13 weeks of leave for a serious health condition, including pregnancy, in two calendar years.
Paid family leave became mandatory in New York on January 1, 2018. This leave is being introduced on a phased approach - employees are now guaranteed up to 8 weeks of paid family leave, and this number will go up to 12 weeks by 2021.
Beginning in January 2020, employees in Washington start being able to apply for paid family and medical leave benefits. These benefits will allow for up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year.
In 2022, employees in Connecticut will be able to request and take paid family leave through the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA). The most recent state to require paid maternity leave is Oregon. The bill was signed into law in August 2019 and is the first of its kind. Unlike other states, Oregon will provide 100 percent wage replacement for all employees (even those who may be in the country illegally) as long earn at least $1000 in a calendar year.
While there has been a considerable shift in recent years, 42 states still do not provide any form of protection to those who work for a company with no paid family leave.