It's 2017 and there is no guaranteed paid parental leave in the United States. Sure, some businesses in a handful of states across the nation are generous enough to provide private employees with paid parental leave — but when it comes down to it, most people in the United States are not promised any sort of pay during their hiatus after having a child. City leaders in Seattle, Washington, however, weren't having any of that, recently suggesting a change be made at the local level; Now, Seattle is proposing a paid family leave plan — and though it's a small step in the grand scheme of things, it's a promising move toward tackling a very big issue.
Seattle city leaders are hoping to establish paid family leave for private-sector employees that live in the city, eventually hoping to expand that policy state-wide, according to Seattle news affiliate KIRO 7. This is on top of the already established leave plan for city employees who receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave from their jobs.
The proposal for this plan outlines the evident need for a wider paid leave policy and details how that could be accomplished by officials. According to the proposal, paid parental leave would work like an insurance benefit, similar to unemployment programs: The employer and employee would pay premiums into a fund with the purpose of paid family leave. When the employee has to take up to 26 weeks of paid parental leave, they would receive wage replacement and given job security in the meantime.
While the idea hasn't been implemented yet (it is, after all, just a proposal at the moment), it's a good start. If passed, Seattle would be one of the few places in the United States that offer paid parental leave as a mandated policy for all employers. Only four states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York) and two cities (San Francisco, California and Washington, D.C.) offer paid parental leave at the moment; Washington could be well on track to joining those ranks as there are two other competing bills — introduced by Democrats and Republicans — that propose paid leave state-wide, according to The Seattle Times.
For the rest of the United States, however, things aren't looking that promising. Though all are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it's only promised to an employee if the business has at least 50 employees, or if the employee has worked in the business for over a year. By now, you'd think paid parental leave would be the norm — especially since, according to Forbes, studies show that there is a link between paid maternity leave and improved health for both mother and baby.
As previously stated, the United States is the only country among 41 nations without any mandated parental leave which isn't a good look. For a country that prides itself on progress, the United States' parental leave program sets the nation behind. Seattle's proposed family leave plan acknowledges that this is a problem — and if it's passed, it'll be a huge step in the right direction.