Mandated Paid Leave Expands Again


Last week, Oregon joined Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts as the fourth state to mandate that most employers provide paid sick leave.

Specifically, Oregon will require beginning Jan. 1 that Portland-based employers with six or more full-time workers anywhere in the state provide 40 hours of paid leave a year. Employers based outside Portland with 10 or more workers must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave a year beginning Jan. 1.

The new statewide law will supersede municipal paid leave ordinances in Portland and Eugene. 

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee paid sick or maternity leave. In fact, the United States does not even prohibit employers from firing workers for missing one day because of illness.  In the absence of federal protections, states and cities are taking action.

Unlike the United States, most European countries require payment for some or all of time taken off for illnesses from flu to cancer.  Most European countries also have paid parental leave for mothers in and around the time of pregnancy and fathers who need time off to care for their children. For instance, the United Kingdom allows women to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave; 39 of those weeks are paid.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the United States requires employers to provide 12 weeks of leave to workers to care for a newborn, a sick loved one or to recover from an illness. But it’s unpaid leave. Most U.S. families cannot afford to take unpaid time off.  

A report by the Council of Economic Advisors in June 2014 lists numerous benefits from paid sick and maternity leave.  For example, contagion is reduced when working parents take time off to stay home with sick children who otherwise would have gone to school.

The report also found growing evidence that accessible maternity leave increases the prospect that a mother will return to work and progress further in her career.

In addition, the researchers found that European parents who took advantage of paid leave programs were better able to care for their children and monitor their health, which reduced infant mortality. Children also have briefer hospital stays when their parents have the ability to stay home to care for them.

The benefits of paid leave are not just short-term ones; one study cited in the report found that children whose mothers used maternity leave had higher educational attainment, lower teen pregnancy rates, higher IQ scores, and higher earnings in adulthood.


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