While the Golden State works to expand paid family leave, the Buckeye State offers no protections to working moms
Last week, the California State Senate passed a bill extending paid family leave. Not only does California’s S.B. 406 expand the number of relatives whose needs for care qualify as a need for leave, but it also lowers the threshold for small businesses offering leave from 50 employees to 25.
While the Golden State is seeking to invest in families, the Buckeye State – along with most of the nation – is trailing behind. The United States is the only advanced country in the world to have no guaranteed form of legally protected, partially paid time off for women who just gave birth.
Instead, the 1993 federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to offer only unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks. What’s worse, due to all the exceptions written into FMLA, only 60 percent of American workers are actually covered by the law.
And let’s not kid ourselves. When a parent’s only option for leave is unpaid, this realistically means there is no option at all.
The idea of limited care options for a brand new baby is especially appalling at this juncture in my own life. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October, and to us, the value of time early in her life cannot be overstated. Every minute we can spend with our new baby will affect pivotal items like good nutrition, proper pediatric care, and safe sleeping behaviors. That important time together also means learning the crucial and less prescriptive lessons, the grey matter of parenting: bonding, intuiting our baby’s needs, and the human touch proven to give her an early sense of security and self-esteem.
And our personal circumstance just scratches the surface of the real story here. Nationally, women constitute a growing share of the workforce, both by choice and by economic necessity. Only 13 percent of the workforce, overall, has access to paid leave; and it’s even worse for low-wage workers. Just four percent of low-wage workers have access to paid maternity leave.
How is this possible in a nation built by middle-class families?
A month ago, on Mother’s Day, John Oliver aired a segment on the hypocrisy of this holiday, when our own nation’s policies do so little in the way of actually honoring and respecting the role of mothers. This nation celebrates mothers by marking down kitchen appliances, yet doesn’t deliver on the most important benefit to working moms, in particular: the ability to keep her paycheck and care for her newborn.
In the video, Claire Suddath from Bloomberg News points out that “90 percent of employers in California felt positive or, at worst, neutral effects” of paid family leave once it was implemented. It’s no wonder Californians are seeking to expand the protections!
The benefits Californians see from offering paid family leave are so clear that they’re expanding them. I can’t help but implore our policymakers: When there are such clear benefits to investing in our families, why is Ohio so backwards on this issue?