The most far-reaching paid family leave law in America has been announced by New York state, with an additional promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour also announced.
The state will mandate the right to 12 weeks of paid leave for private sector workers for time off employment to care for a new baby. The law will also mandate the right for workers to be entitled to paid leave to look after a sick child or partner, dying parent or other high-level family emergencies.
The system is designed to be paid for with insurance-style funds made up of nominal fees deducted from employees’ pay packets, rather than costing companies directly.
New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced late on Thursday that the state legislature had agreed the new policy on paid family leave. In addition, he promised to increase the state minimum wage, in phases, from $9 to $15 an hour over two to six years.
“I believe this is the best plan the state has produced in decades,” Mr. Cuomo said after long hours of negotiations in Albany brought agreement on the next annual budget, which includes the new measures.
The right to three months of paid family leave a year will be offered to mothers and fathers adopting or fostering as well as having their own biological children. It will be mandated for men and women needing to nurse a sick partner, spouse, parent or other family member.
New York is only the fifth state in the US to adopt a paid family leave law.
“This is the most robust paid family leave program in the US, it’s tremendous and will be a revolution in the workplace and for economic justice,” said Donna Dolan, executive director of the Time to Care New York Paid Leave Coalition, a campaign group with corporate and union members that has been battling for better leave rights for more than 15 years.
Ms Dolan pointed out that America is still far behind the rest of the developed world; countries such as the UK offer 40 weeks of paid maternity leave.
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