Washington, DC may be about to get the United States’ most generous maternity leave

With new mouths to feed, parents need both time and money.
With new mouths to feed, parents need both time and money.
Image: Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein
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A majority of local lawmakers in Washington, DC, are backing a new bill to give workers 16 weeks of annual paid leave to accommodate family needs such as welcoming a new baby or taking care of a sick relative. The measure, which crucially would include a huge number of federal employees based in the capital, would create the most generous family leave policy in the United States.

Only a few states in the US have paid family leave policies, in stark contrast to more generous standards in Europe and other parts of the world. A growing number of US companies offer generous leave policies, but many workers get no paid family leave at all. The United States is one of the few countries in the world—the others are Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea—that offer no paid maternity leave on a nationwide basis.

Under the DC city council legislation, 100% of salaries and hourly wages would be covered for workers who make less than $52,000 annually (or $1,000 a week). Those who earn more would be eligible for reimbursement of $1,000 a week plus 50% of their additional income, capped at $3,000 a week.

Nearly all DC residents and part-time and full-time employees of DC businesses would qualify. Government employees or employees of federal contractors who live in DC could opt in to coverage by paying a small fee, though residents of Virginia and Maryland would not be eligible.

Employers would be taxed on a sliding scale to pay for the benefit, based on how much their employees earn. DC businesses aren’t all happy about this, according to the Washington Post, but the Obama administration has ”enthusiastically supported” the measure.