Time For California To Step Up On Paid Family Leave

The New Parent Leave Act is common sense reform that will better serve the children of our state.
09/26/2017 12:46 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2017

By Jim Steyer, Founder & CEO, Common Sense

Common Sense Media

With the end of this year’s legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown must decide the fate of hundreds of bills on his desk. Of all those pieces of legislation, none is more important for the future of California families and the health of our children than the New Parent Leave Act. 

The bill, SB 63 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for thousands of California workers. It is common sense legislation that would allow parents to realize the promise of our state’s existing paid family leave program and ensure that up to 2.7 million more California parents have the opportunity to spend quality time with their newborn children without fear of economic retribution. Gov. Brown should sign the bill. 

We know that what happens in the first moments of a child’s life can help shape that child’s future. Those first weeks are formative ones, and help shape how a child will interact with the world throughout his or her life. This is also the time when parents and children create emotional bonds, allowing for essential emotional development and  setting the stage for healthy relationships throughout the child’s life. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other childhood experts recommend that infants not be enrolled in child care until they are at least 12 weeks old due to rapid developmental changes and the risk of quickly developing severe undetected illness. But for many California parents, the reality of spending those critical early weeks with their children is simply not an option. 

For many California parents, the reality of spending those critical early weeks with their children is simply not an option.

Under current law, only those parents who work for companies with 50 or more employees are eligible for job-protected parental leave. That leaves millions of California workers without any true ability to take time with their newborn, and many new parents struggling with an impossible choice between the well-being of their new child and their financial security.

SB 63 will not create new costs for businesses. It will simply allow new parents to take time with their child, and ensure that our state’s family-leave policies work not just in theory, but in practice. Existing law already allows for the state’s worker-funded Paid Family Leave program allows workers to receive partial replacement of their wages while caring for a new child. . The reality is that many workers are unable to use this benefit ― one that they pay for out of their own regular paychecks ―  for fear of losing their jobs. 

Surveys have found that nearly 40 percent of employees who were eligible to use PFL did not apply for the benefit out of fear of losing their job or other negative consequences at work.

This bill will explicitly ban that kind of retribution from employers, and keep new parents from having to choose between the welfare of their child and economic security for their family. It will only apply to workers who have been with their current company for at least one year, and it will extend these protections to those employed at businesses with 20 or more employees.

The New Parent Leave Act is common sense reform that will better serve the children of our state. It will expand benefits that many higher-wage workers take for granted, and ensure that children have the opportunity to develop emotionally, regardless of the economic circumstances they are born into. 

Through his strong leadership on environmental protection, Gov. Brown has led the charge on creating good public policy that is based on sound science. As with climate change, the science surrounding early childhood development is also clear: Policies like the New Parent Leave Act create better health and emotional outcomes for children.

These policies have worked in states from Maine to Minnesota. Now it is time for California to step up, and ensure every child in our state gets a proper start to ensure a better future.