My State has Paid Leave. It Meant Everything to My Family (May 12, 2015)
By Anne Quirk, U.S. Department of Labor Blog
I’ll admit it. When interviewing for a job in my past, I focused on just two things: the salary and the vacation time. Babies were not on the brain yet and, truthfully, I assumed we all got some time off to care for a newborn if we wanted. Because we live in the United States and we are a super advanced and family-focused country, right? Don’t all companies have some sort of magical maternity or paternity policy they tell you about when you announce you’re expecting? Isn’t that what FMLA is for?
Stop right there! I, along with many expectant parents, quickly learned that the Family Medical Leave Act, while important and necessary, only guarantees up to 12 weeks of job protection — all unpaid, only if you have been at your employer for a full year and only if your company employs more than 50 people. A huge number of you reading this do not even qualify for job protection if you needed to care for a baby or another family member.
As a country, we can do better than this — the rest of the world is doing better than this. We are one of a handful of countries (and the only industrialized one) that do not have a paid family leave program. I’d like to share why it’s so important to me (and why it should be to you, too) and why I am so fortunate to live in Rhode Island, currently one of 4 states providing paid family leave.
At 27 weeks pregnant, I went into premature labor. I had planned on working up until my due date, which was then a whopping 13 weeks away. I was immediately put on bed rest. After I used up my few sick and vacation days, there were no more paychecks to help with the mortgage or the bills. At 31 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to a baby boy who would require a month in the NICU. Once we got him home we would have daily appointments with homecare nurses, the NICU follow-up clinic, ophthalmologists, audiologists, physical therapists, etc. Our son had quite the social calendar.