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California Is the Latest State to Expand Their Parental Leave Policy

by Esther Carlstone

Photograph by Twenty20

San Francisco recently upped their family leave policies and now the entire state of California is following suit. Like New York and New Jersey before them, California Governor Jerry Brown signed bill AB908, which will expand the state's current parental leave policies. This change will especially benefit low-income employees. Brown says that the change was necessary in order to create a "more decent and empathetic kind of community" and that lawmakers are "trying to compensate for the gross inequality that is not an abstraction."

While California was already one of four states to require any pay during family leave, its paid family leave (PFL) program was still leaving the lowest income earners out. The current PFL program pays 55 percent of one's salary for six weeks when out on leave, but just over half your salary wasn't enough for most low-income earners to survive, leaving many to return to work mere days after the birth of a child.

According to California Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who introduced the bill, “It is unrealistic to expect a worker who is already living paycheck to paycheck on 100 percent of their salary to use a program for 6 weeks at nearly half of their wages,”

Under the new law, which will be in effect in January 2018, low-income earners—who earn close to minimum wage—will receive 70 percent of their salary for six weeks, while those with higher wages (up to $108,000 annually) will receive 60 percent of their salary.

President Obama recently praised California's parental leave changes with a warning for the rest of the nation, which is sorely lacking any form of adequate paid parental leave program, "This is great news for California. Yet millions of Americans still don’t have access to any form of paid leave. Congress needs to catch up to California—and to countries all over the world—by acting to guarantee paid family leave to all Americans."

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