While the Federal Government Stalls, Two States Passed Great Paid Leave Programs

Maryland and Delaware are fighting to make sure their workers have access to paid leave.

a dad and his child sit at a table; the kid is on his shoulders

Last month, Maryland and Delaware joined the ranks of states that offer paid family leave, bringing the grand total to 11. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington all have paid family leave policies, as does the District of Columbia. Still, several of those policies are not yet active, requiring time to build up the tax reserves to pay for them.

The state governments of Delaware and Maryland state both passed family leave laws in April, guaranteeing workers the right to at least 12 weeks off after the birth of a child.

How does the Delaware program work?

The Delaware program allows six weeks of leave for every two years worked to care for a worker’s own health condition or that of a family member. Workers would not be allowed to claim more than 12 weeks per year, and the benefit would top out at either 80% of the worker’s salary or $900 per week, whichever is lower. The benefits would be available to those who work for companies with at least 25 employees. Companies with 10-24 employees are only eligible for paid leave after the birth of a child, and companies with fewer than 10 employees can opt-in to the program but are not required by state law to take part.

How does the Maryland program work?

The Maryland program offers 12 weeks of leave to those who have worked for at least one year or 680 hours to care for their own illness or that of a family member, and the benefit is capped at $1000 per week. The benefit is available to all Maryland workers, even part-time employees and those who work for small companies.

What’s going on federally with paid leave?

As the federal government lags on passing even just four weeks of paid leave for working families, the U.S still lags far behind the rest of the world regarding paid leave. In some states, legislatures are dead-set against adopting a state-wide paid leave program, despite overwhelming support from both businesses and the public. North Dakota legislators placed an outright ban on cities and counties enacting their own forms of paid leave, and Missouri and South Carolina are considering paid leave for government employees only.

The United States is the only OECD country that does not offer federally mandated family leave, despite the proven benefits. Other developed nations offer robust and extensive family leave programs of up to a year or more. In contrast, here in the U.S., the only federally mandated leave program is the Family Medical Leave Act, adopted in 1993, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave and guarantees that you can not be fired or lose your health insurance while on leave.

The Biden Administration has pledged to tackle paid leave, but their efforts have been hampered by Congress. But if you work in one of the 11 states that does offer a government-funded paid leave program, you’re a little bit luckier than the rest of us.