As the federal government steps backward on family leave, New York state is attempting to move forward.
The Assembly and Senate are considering a bill that would provide a paid family leave for workers who give birth, adopt a child, or care for a sick family member. The paid leave could extend for 12 weeks and pay at most $170.00 per week. The plan would be paid for by a weekly 45 cent payroll tax on workers' wages.
Presently, workers may take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a new child or a sick relative under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, passed under the Clinton administration. The problem is that many workers don't take the leave, because they cannot afford to go without a pay check.
Although I think the legislation is a step in the right direction, I'm not sure $170.00 per week is going to be enough for many families to opt to take the leave. Workers in professional jobs I would suspect are going to be especially uninterested in such a small wage during leave, although something is better than nothing.
The Times Union yesterday predicted the legislation will pass. If it does, New York will have the most progressive family leave law in the country. Washington state and California both have paid family leave laws, but for shorter periods of leave (and higher worker compensation).
I continue to be amazed at how back-asswards this country is with regard to creating a culture in which people can balance work and family life. That New York's law might be the most progressive in the land speaks volume of how far we still have to go to allow men and women to be both workers and caregivers, rather than having to choose between them.