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California a model for national paid family leave

Advocates say a new bill to establish a national paid family leave program is modeled on California’s law.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., today introduced the “Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act,” which would let eligible workers receive a portion of their pay when they need time away from their jobs to bond with a new child, to care for a seriously ill family member or for their own serious health condition.

It’s similar in design to California’s law, passed in 2002 and implemented in 2004. The state law has helped about 1.6 million Californians with up to six weeks of paid leave, and was recently expanded to include care for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law, starting in July 2014.

Existing federal law provides only unpaid, job-protected leave, but the proposed FAMILY Act will offer paid benefits for up to 12 weeks. The bill would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits, funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each.

“The FAMILY Act has taken important lessons from California, since our state was the first in the country to successfully pass paid family leave,” said Sharon Terman, senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. “After more than a decade since implementing paid family leave, we know that employers are widely supportive of the law and report no ill-effects as a result of implementing it, and that families have benefited from having paid time off to care for ill relatives or to bond with new babies. It’s a win-win for all.”

Ann O’Leary, vice-president and director of Next Generation’s Children & Families program, said the economic stability provided by California’s law is a model for the nation. “We are all mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents or children—we need a way to care for our families without risking our financial security.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.