***Attention fellow Pennsylvanians and all who support paid family leave in the United States – There is currently a bill pending in the PA State Senate (SB 541) which would mandate 12 weeks of paid leave for workers in PA! This ground breaking legislation needs your support! Your letters, phone calls, emails, and in-person visits are needed to get this legislation passed. Let the PA State Senate hear your voices by contacting the Committee Chair (Lisa Baker) responsible for bringing this bill to a vote (please see contact information below).***
A National Look at Paid Leave Progress in the USA
For the first time in American history paid family leave has been a focal point of discussion among the presidential candidates, citing points such as retention of women in the workforce, supporting low income and single parent households, and increasing health and quality of life for American families. While a majority of other nations around the world with highly developed economies have mandated national paid leave programs, the United States has NONE –ZERO-ZIP. Lets take a quick look at what other developed nations are doing…
A more recent source from 2015 cites the UK as offering 39 weeks and Canada 52 weeks of paid parental leave . Can you even imagine? Having 52 weeks (13 months) to bond with your baby, transition with your family, and heal from childbirth/sleep deprivation before having to return to work? For many American families it seems unfathomable since many individuals in the USA return to work at 1-6 weeks postpartum, or risk loosing their livelihoods.
While the American Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for individuals who birth/adopt a baby, need to care for sick family members, or need time off for serious personal health conditions, this law only applies to individuals employed by companies with at least 50 employees, for at least 12 months, for 20 hours or more a week . Even if individuals manage to meet these employment requirements, many chose to return to work sooner than 12 weeks because of the financial constraints of being unpaid.
I truly hope that federally mandated paid leave passes into law in the USA one day soon, but I would like to take a moment to focus on state mandated paid leave. Currently five states have some form of paid family leave in place, including California, Washington, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and (recently) New York. New York passed the most progressive paid leave bill yet (yay!) at the end of March, 2016, allotting 12 weeks paid leave to individuals welcoming a child or caring for an ill family member. This doubles the 6 weeks allotted in California and New Jersey and triples the 4 weeks of paid leave mandated by Rhode Island. The requirements to qualify for NY paid leave are less stringent and much more inclusive than FMLA, expanding access to more Americans from diverse backgrounds. Side note- NY also passed a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr (rock on, NY, rock on)! For more information on leave requirements and plans for implementation in NY check out this article .
On to examining the wonderful progress in my home state of Pennsylvania! Senator Daylin Leach of Senate District 17 has proposed a bill that would offer 12 weeks of paid leave to workers in PA. Unfortunately, the bill has not gained much traction in the Labor and Industry Committee where it sits, waiting to be called to a vote. Please help push this bill through by calling, emailing, and sending letters (the most noticed form of communication) to the committee chair, Lisa Baker [R]. Click this link to electronically contact Senator Lisa Baker and send your heartfelt words of support for PA Senate Bill 541, Paid Family Leave!
Senator Lisa Baker
Senate Box 203020
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3020
Room: 362 Main Capitol(717) 787-7428
FAX: (717) 787-9242
Here are some reasons why individuals support paid family leave (all or some of which can be cited in your note to the senator)
- Bonding and healing after welcoming a child
- Time for partners to bond and support the drastic family transition of welcoming a child
- Establishing a breastfeeding relationship, which has longterm health benefits for moms, babies, and the national healthcare system as a whole
- Supporting low income families, specifically single parents, in caring for themselves and their families while still maintaining economic viablity
- Allowing individuals to care for aging parents and sick family members
- Because every other developed nation in the world does it!!
For more information on the benefits of paid leave for women in the workforce, check out this article. For those of you concerned about the impact of this legislation on businesses, check out this article (hint-research shows that paid leave does not harm employers).
Thank you for taking the time to engage in the political process in a meaningful way! If enough of us show our support, we could could realistically become the sixth state in the USA to join the paid leave ranks, making not only a national political stand, but also greatly increasing the quality of life for the millions of people who live in PA!