Slowly Catching Up to Developed World, Newsom's Plan for California Would Provide Longest Paid Family Leave in US

In what some are calling a “bold” and “groundbreaking” move—at least by U.S. standards—California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday proposed the nation’s longest paid family leave as part of his new state budget plan.

“The administration is committed to expanding the paid family leave program with the goal of ensuring that all newborns and newly adopted babies can be cared for by a parent or a close family member for the first six months,” according to the governor’s budget summary (pdf), which notes that such schemes lead to “positive health and educational outcomes for children, greater economic security for parents, and less strain on finding and affording infant child care.”

That proposal and other family-friendly policies contained in the plan were celebrated by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

“The Newsom administration clearly recognizes the critical importance of parents bonding with their infants during these most formative years, as well as a parent’s ability to access affordable quality child care when they return to work,” the group said in a statement. “The governor’s proposal to significantly increase funding for universal preschool and early childhood education programs, along with six months of paid family leave, makes an important down payment on the future of California’s children, women, and families.”

Although Newsom’s proposal is seen as “radical for the U.S., the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid time off to new mothers,” as HuffPost points out: “Two-thirds of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guarantee six months of paid time off to new mothers. Newsom’s plan doesn’t go that far,” instead requiring that the six months be split by two relatives.

While the individual time off falls short of what many other developed nations offer to parents, there at least may be some benefits to the required split, as HuffPost outlines:

Currently, parents in California can each take up to six weeks of paid leave annually to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, with wage replacement of up to 70 percent of a worker’s salary. Under the California Disability Insurance Program, birthmothers can take another six weeks off to recover, bringing the combined total for two-parent birth families to four months. That also means that same-sex couples and adoptive or single parents get less time to bond with new children.

“Look, the whole world has this, except for the United States… This is not some utopian proposal. In the U.S. it would be a breakthrough.”
—Ruth Milkman, City University of New York