State employees in Delaware and Virginia now have access to paid family leave, unlike some private-sector workers in those states.
The benefit for public workers is the first step toward a push by lawmakers in both states to pursue a broader paid leave mandate. Both Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) and Gov. John Carney (D-Del.) say the leave helps the state governments attract and retain top talent.
Virginia and Delaware are just the latest localities to provide public employees with paid family leave. Over 40 municipalities across the country have paid family leave for municipal workers, and six states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that mandate some form of paid family leave for private sector employees.
Paid family leave has “really taken off over the past couple of years,” and the impetus for these laws is that people in these localities want to see change happen, Sarah Fleisch Fink, general counsel and director of workplace policy for the National Partnership for Women & Families, told Bloomberg Law July 12.
Beginning April 1, 2019, full-time state workers in Delaware—including educators—will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child six or younger. Workers are eligible for the benefit after one year of employment. Carney signed the bill June 30.
Delaware is the biggest employer in the state, so the paid leave benefits will be significant in terms of increasing the number of workers in the state who have access to paid leave, Fleisch Fink said.
In Virginia, Gov. Northam signed an executive order June 26 that authorizes paid parental leave for employees of executive branch state agencies. Eligible workers will be able to take up to eight weeks of paid parental leave to bond with a newborn, or to care for a child under the age of 18 newly placed for adoption, foster care, or custodial care.
The paid leave may be used in combination with other leave benefits and will apply to both parents if both are eligible state employees, according to the executive order.
Growing Demand for Leave
Only 15 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As more workers get parental leave benefits, there will likely be a growing demand from those without leave, Fleisch Fink said.
U.S. lawmakers are taking note of the growing demand. On July 11, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy met to explore potential avenues to a federal paid family leave program.
Democrats are backing legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program funded by contributions from employers and workers. Republican legislators are exploring the feasibility of workers paying for family leave by deducting Social Security contributions.