For the first time in U.S. history, both major-party candidates have put forward paid maternity leave policies. Currently, the U.S. is the only western country in the world that does not require paid leave for mothers or fathers of newly born infants. In comparison, the United Kingdom, France and Canada all provide at least 14 weeks of paid leave for fathers and from 26-51.9 weeks for mothers. In Germany, fathers are guaranteed at least 14 weeks of paid leave, and mothers are guaranteed at least 52 weeks of paid leave!
Currently in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), eligible employees (must work for company with more than 50 employees, or a public agency, or a public/private elementary or secondary school to qualify) are entitled to the following (unpaid):
12 workweeks of leave in 12-month period for:
· The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
· The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement.
While both candidates have proposed paid maternity leave, both have different views for the paid leave. The proposals from both candidates suggest that the United States may finally catch up with the rest of the developed world to require paid family leave.
Going against traditional conservative policy, Donald Trump has introduced a plan that would provide a guarantee of six weeks paid maternity leave for women after childbirth. While this plan may be good for new mothers, under longstanding Supreme Court precedent, it is unconstitutional, since the benefit will only be available to women and not men. Since the case of Craig v. Boren in 1976, the Supreme Court has ruled that laws that discriminate on the on the basis of sex are presumptively unconstitutional. Should Trump win the election, his plan for paid maternity leave only for women will face intense scrutiny before it is passed. Trump’s plan for funding the program would be by eliminating fraud in unemployment insurance, where the U.S. loses about $3 billion per year due to the abuse of the unemployment insurance program.
On the other side, Hillary Clinton has proposed to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child, if the worker is suffering from a serious medical condition, or caring for a family member with a serious condition. Where the two plans differ is that Clinton calls for equal coverage for both women and men, whether they become parents through pregnancy, adoption or surrogacy. In Clinton’s campaign for presidency in 2008, she proposed a goal of having paid leave for all American workers by the year 2016. During the current political campaign, paid family leave was also endorsed by her Democratic rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Clinton hopes to fund the paid leave policy solely by increased taxes on the wealthy.