Despite his campaign promises proclaiming support for “family values,” Bush earlier this month announced his intention to repeal the Birth and Adoption Unemployment Compensation Rule which provides unemployment pay for workers on leave to care for a new child. Judith L. Lichtman, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families told the New York Times, “It’s just a slap in the face to working people All this regulation did was, for the first time, give states the option to use” unemployment insurance to compensate parents on unpaid family leave.
The Labor Department insists that the rule approved by former President Bill Clinton in June 2000 must be repealed because it burdens states, already suffering low unemployment funds during the economic recession. However, to date no state has even exercised the option because many are amidst legislative efforts to implement the program. The repeal “reflects profound mistrust of states to make wise choices” in managing their unemployment pay programs, said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, according to the Associated Press.
California is the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive paid family leave plan -albeit one that is not paid via unemployment insurance. Five other states offer a form of paid leave called temporary disability insurance and at least 24 states allow public employees to use sick leave to care for sick family members, while three states require private employers to do so for their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
The United States is one of few developed nations that does not offer some form of paid parental leaveÑthe US enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993, which requires unpaid leave for workers. Approximately 127 countries offer compensation to parents, while many others have passed similar laws to compensate workers who need time off because of family emergencies. “We as a nation love to talk about ourselves as a family-friendly nation, but when it comes to having the policies in place to live up to that we often fall short,” Lichtman told the Los Angeles Times.