The U.S. is the only industrialized country without a federal paid family leave policy.
The Family Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, says that employers must let new parents take up to 12 weeks off, but there is no guarantee of getting paid.
Currently, the District of Columbia and nine states have laws offering paid family leave, Washington, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Oregon.
New laws in Connecticut and Oregon are waiting to go into effect.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said that just 15% of private industry, and state and local government workers had access to paid family leave as of March 2017.
Paid family leave has been a big issue among the 2020 Democratic candidates with most favoring up to 12 weeks.
President Trump called for paid family leave in his State of the Union Address, but his plan is misleading. It allows new parents to collect a portion of their future child tax credits early in exchange for smaller payments down the road.
While people in the United States are fighting for this basic family need, the people of Finland are working to strengthen their programs for both mothers and fathers. Finland’s woman-led center-left government has decided to give new fathers seven months of paid family leave, the same number allowed for women.
Women in Finland also get a paid month off at the end of their pregnancies.
Minister of Health and Social Affairs Aino-Kaisa Pekonenvia YLE puhe / Twitter
Minister of Health and Social Affairs Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said that the “radical reform” was created to increase the country’s declining birth rate and to create greater gender equality.
“This enables better equality between parents and diversity among families,” she continued.
“Over a longer term, it also improves equality in working life and in wages by directing fathers to use a larger proportion of parental leaves than before,” she said.
Sweden goes even further with family leave than Finland.
The Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 16 months of paid family leave at 80% of their salaries. Plus, there are extra days added if the parents have twins.
Dads are required to take some of the 480 days allotted to the family and the paid days don’t expire until the child is eight years old.
The difference in how Finland and the United States treats their citizens says a lot about the country’s values as a whole. We hear a lot about “family values” from politicians in America, but things would be a lot different if they actually valued family.