The list of states in the U.S. that offer any kind of mandated paid family leave is painfully small — to date, it includes a mere five states out of 50. But it looks like we’re (slowly, but surely) making some headway: Last week, one more state was added to the roster, when New York passed a law requiring paid family leave for mothers and fathers, joining California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Washington. By 2018, parents in the Empire State will be eligible to take 12 weeks off when welcoming a child or caring for a sick family member, with at least some portion of their paycheck intact.
But not to be outdone, San Francisco blazed a trail of its own yesterday by going one step further: The so-called “Golden City” became the first city in the United States to pass a law mandating that all new parents be entitled to fully paid parental leave — beginning next year. According to The Guardian, mothers and fathers will receive their entire paychecks for six weeks following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a new child. And make no mistake, that’s a pretty huge deal: Since 2002, new parents working in California have been eligible for just 55% of their salary for six weeks of leave, which is funded by “employee-financed public disability insurance,” according to The New York Times. Now, employers with over 20 employees will be required to make up that difference.
In the process, San Fran’s new paid leave law one-ups the one passed by New York, which does not require employers to pay out of pocket at all, and states that employees will be eligible for just 67% of the state’s average weekly wage for the duration of their leave. (This translates to a maximum of $848 per week for the highest paid workers.)
According to the Times, lawmakers in San Fran felt there was no other choice than to introduce the bill, since there wasn’t any real change happening on the federal level.
“Whether it’s paid parental leave, infrastructure investment, minimum wage, paid sick leave or addressing carbon emissions, we know the states have to act,” said Scott Wiener, the supervisor who first introduced the measure.
While it should go without saying that the benefits of paid parental leave are enormous for both parents and babies, it remains a mystery to many how a nation as advanced as ours lags so far behind the rest of the world. As it stands now, the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to not have a federally mandated paid-leave policy — something that’s become a huge talking point during the current presidential campaign, particularly for Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
So while San Francisco certainly deserves a hearty round of applause for leading the pack here, perhaps the standing ovation should be saved for later — when the 45 other states that currently require zero paid leave finally get on board to support families nationwide.