In the News

Guide Offers Lessons from Nation’s First Paid Family Leave Program
AFL-CIO Now Blog, January 16, 2011

By James Parks

As more states consider offering paid family leave, state legislators would do well to check out a new guide released last week that offers a primer on the nation’s first paid family leave program, implemented six years ago in California. Published by the Labor Project for Working Families and the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security, the guide includes the dos and don’ts other states should consider as they pursue similar proposals.

Since 2004, the California program has provided more than 1 million Californians paid leave from their jobs to tend to critical life events, such as  bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child, or caring for a seriously ill family member.
Netsy Firestein, director of the Labor Project for Working Families and the guide’s co-author, says:

Today’s workers have to juggle work and family like never before, and California has shown there’s a significant and easy way for states to help facilitate that. With a largely successful six-year track record, California offers key lessons for what other states can do.

Co-author Ann O’Leary, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security, adds:

More and more Americans are combining work with family responsibilities, and they can’t afford to sacrifice one or the other. We hope this implementation guide shows how states can best pursue smart policies for modern families and the modern workforce.

Interest in paid family leave at the state and federal levels has steadily increased in recent years. In 2009, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to offer paid family leave benefits to its workers. In 2007, Washington State passed a paid parental leave program, but it is not yet implemented. Many other states also are seriously considering establishing paid family leave programs, including Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

President Obama’s 2011 budget also included a request that Congress provide funds for a “State Paid Leave Fund” to help states with start up costs associated with paid family leave programs—a sign of growing federal interest in supporting and encouraging state action.

Click here to download a copy of the guide, “A Guide to Implementing Paid Family Leave: Lessons From California.”