185 Countries Guarantee Paid Family Leave; The 3 that don’t: Papua New Guinea, Oman and U.S.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It is a very small, and arguably unpopular club to which the United States belongs: Nations that do not provide workers with paid time off to start a family.


Of the 188 countries in the world, only three have no paid family leave—Papua New Guinea, Oman and the U.S., according to a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO). The other 185 governments have adopted laws authorizing mothers, and in 78 cases even fathers, to take time off and still receive paychecks while caring for newborns or other relatives.


The ILO has three main standards for family leave. It should be at least 14 weeks, pay should be at least two-thirds of regular earnings and the funding should come from social insurance or public funds, rather than from employers’ pockets.


Current federal law (the 1993 Federal Medical Leave Act) gives Americans the right to take family leave as long as the company for which they work has at least 50 employees. But nothing in the statute requires employees to be paid during the leave. Only three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) require paid leave, which is financed through payroll taxes.


Democrats in Congress are trying to expand federal law with legislation (the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act), which would provide new parents and caretakers with up to 12 paid weeks off each year. The bill has stalled in the House, where Republicans oppose the idea, claiming it will hurt small business.


A poll conducted for the National Partnership for Women and Families two years ago revealed that 86% of Americans support paid family leave, including 73% of Republicans.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Think Paid Family Leave Is Possible—Yet (by Tanya Basu, The Atlantic)

Maternity and Paternity at Work (International Labour Organization) (pdf)


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