In December 2016, the Washington, D.C. City Council passed a bill to provide paid family and medical leave to private sector workers in the city. The law would not apply to government workers, but would allow up to 8 weeks of parental leave, 6 weeks of leave to care for sick relatives, and 2 weeks of personal sick leave for covered employees. The law is not likely to go into effect before 2019; it must first undergo congressional review. Amendments have already been proposed in City Council, just weeks after it was passed.
This law differs significantly from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which we have discussed previously, because it would allow some workers to collect up to 90 percent of their pay while out on leave. The FMLA only requires large employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The D.C. law is part of a trend of state and local legislation aimed at addressing an important issue for working families – paid time off to care for themselves, sick relatives, or new children.
California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and San Francisco all have enacted laws to provide some type of paid family leave.
The United States is the only industrialized country that does not require any type of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child. For example, Germany and France each provide 14 weeks of paid leave for new fathers and 52 weeks and 26 weeks, respectively, for new mothers. While in the United States, employers have the option to provide paid parental or other family leave, the vast majority of employers do not. In a Feb. 28 address to Congress, President Donald J. Trump stated that he wants to “help ensure that new parents have paid family leave.” It is not clear if that means he has taken a new, more expansive stance compared to his campaign plan to provide 6 weeks of paid maternity leave, only to new mothers who have given birth to a child.
A majority of Americans support paid family leave, and as more state and local legislatures address the issue, there may be the momentum necessary to pass federal legislation.