Workplace Wise - Iowa Employment Law Attorneys

Friday, September 27, 2013

Paid Maternity Leave Federal Legislation Proposed

By  Megan Erickson Moritz

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut will be introducing legislation that would offer American workers paid leave to care for a new child. 

Currently, the Family Medical Leave Act entitles qualified employees to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.  FMLA leave, however, is generally available only to workers who have been employed for at least 12 months by a company that has 50 or more employees.  That means about 40-50% of US workers don’t qualify.  The U.S. remains the only industrialized country that has no paid maternity leave program.  In fact, the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries in the world not to offer paid leave (among Papua New Guinea, Liberia, and Suriname).  Most of Europe and Central Asia offer paid maternity leave; 31 countries provide a year or more of paid leave.

California and New Jersey have implemented statewide programs establishing paid family leave benefits.  A few other states have some level of income replacement available for new mothers.  Under Iowa law, most employees have up to eight weeks of leave for pregnancy-related disabilities.  While the Iowa law covers more employers, the required leave is also unpaid.

Although programs allowing paid leave often result in saved money for companies (in terms of lower turnover and better long-term productivity), American business owners have strongly opposed such initiatives in the past.  This isn’t the first time lawmakers have unsuccessfully proposed federal legislation for paid parental leave.  Particularly in light of the proposed amount of annual leave Gillibrand and DeLauro seek in their bill (12 weeks, which is twice as long as the 6 weeks offered by the two state programs), together with its proposed funding mechanism, it’s  unlikely this current proposal would pass, either.  It will be interesting, however, to see if this bill spurs further dialogue on the topic

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