“American exceptionalism” is defined as a belief that the United States is unique, and that its values and political system makes it entitled to play a distinctive role in the world, for reasons that go beyond the dominance of the U.S. dollar in international trade and the massive size and scope of the U.S. armed forces.
The United States is exceptional in another way: It’s the only country among developed capitalist democracies that does not provide nationwide paid maternity leave. Among the 38 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which the U.S. is a member, the average length of legally mandated paid maternity leave is 60.2 weeks – with an average of nearly 71 weeks in the European Union. (New fathers also get leave – an average of 8.7 weeks worldwide, 7.1 weeks in the EU.) Here’s a list of the countries with the best paid leave for new parents.
The right to take time off for family or medical reasons has been protected under federal law in the United States since the 1993 passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, but that law doesn’t include paid leave. Furthermore, it only covers workers employed full-time for at least a year at the same establishment, and only establishments with 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks of the current or previous year. In other words, a huge number of U.S. workers are not provided FMLA protections.
To determine paid family leave policies in the jurisdictions that offer them – 11 states plus the District of Columbia – 24/7 Tempo reviewed State Paid Family Leave Laws Across the U.S., published by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank The Bipartisan Policy Center, as well as the Global Parent Pay Index compiled by the job search site Lensa.
Today, only about 88.5 million people in the U.S. live in states that offer some kind of government-mandated paid family leave (59 million of those are in New York and California). Some states have only recently implemented this policy – and only this year did the District of Columbia, Delaware, and Maryland approve paid family leave programs.
These are the only states offering paid family leave in the US
In three states – Colorado, Maryland, and Oregon – paid family leave policies won’t begin to become active until 2023, and Delaware’s program doesn’t become effective until 2025/2026. Paid family leave legislation has been introduced in 10 other states, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, but it has not yet been approved. (These are the labor laws your boss doesn’t want you to know about.)
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