Paid Leave: The US is further behind than you realized

If you’ve read our blog over the summer, it is clear that paid leave is an issue MBPC cares about. Paid leave policies provide workers with the time necessary to deal with serious personal or family illness, or in some cases, the welcomed addition of a new baby. We wrote about it here, and here, and here, and here.

Yesterday, US Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote about this important issue. He said what we all know – the United States is behind the curve on paid leave. But did you know that we are the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave law of any kind? Here are the examples he gave from other countries.

  • Canada guarantees at least 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, with some employee cost-sharing as part of the national employment insurance system. Parental leave is 37 weeks shared between both parents with similar payments. There is also child care support of $100 per month for children under six.
  • The United Kingdom allows women to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave (including 39 weeks with pay), in addition to a range of options for paternity leave.
  • Australia offers up to 18 weeks of parental leave with financial support, and at 5.8 percent Australia’s its unemployment rate is lower than ours. The conservative Australian government didn’t embrace this policy grudgingly; they made it a centerpiece of their campaign platform and want to extend it to 26 weeks with more financial support.
  • Brazilian unemployment is comparable to ours, but their women get 120 days of leave at 100 percent pay.
  • Japan offers paid maternity leave at slightly reduced salary and benefits for up to 14 weeks of total leave. Moreover, Prime Minister Abe has made “Womenomics” – increasing GDP by boosting female labor force participation — a cornerstone of his governing agenda.

We know that paid leave allows women and men to stay connected to the workforce when there is a new baby, a sick child or parent or an injured individual. This is an issue critical not only to families, but also to businesses and the economy. It is so important that California, Rhode Island and New Jersey didn’t wait for Congress to act. They are leading the nation and by passing paid family and medical leave laws.

This could be Montana’s moment to shine. Governor Bullock knows how important paid leave policies are to working families. Last year, he created the Equal Pay Task Force. These local experts continue to examine policies meant to reduce the gap in wages between Montana’s men and women. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Taskforce suggested Montana should consider paid leave.

Later this week, the US Department of Labor will announce the winners of $500,000 grant for states to explore the feasibility and evaluate the effectiveness of paid leave policies. Fingers crossed that Montana is on the list!

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