Is New York's paid family leave plan enough?

Posted at 8:15 AM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 09:47:53-04

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) signed into law a new paid family leave program, touting it as the most comprehensive program of its kind in the country.

This will give New Yorkers 12 weeks of paid family leave when caring for a new child (including an adopted or foster child), sick family family member or when a relative is called to duty in the military. This applies to both men and women.

It will be phased in over a three year span between 2018-2021.

Currently, FMLA in New York -- and around the country -- provides for 12 weeks of job security, but does not require a paycheck.

However, some mothers that 7 Eyewitness News spoke with feel that we are still behind the times.

"It's totally a step in the right direction," said Lisa Casper, a mother to three-year-old triplets.

The idea of paid family leave for Casper, and many other new parents whose employers do not provide full paychecks or benefits, is a big step.

"Many wonder, do we have rent, do we have food, do we have health insurance," Casper said. "This is a new baby -- this is not something a new family should be worried about."

Casper said a paid family leave would have been extremely helpful when her children were in the NICU.

However, she said "it's nowhere where we should and need to be."

Casper's triplets were in the NICU for 65 days.

"You are going to use that (FMLA) time very quickly, and they're not even home yet," Casper said.

Her children were in the NICU for so long that her husband had to go back to work so that he could stay home and help when the babies came home.

"If your child was put in an ambulance today, you would be there," Casper said. "But for families whose kids are in the NICU, the question is -- do I go to work? They're going to be there so long, what do we do?"

Outside of the United States, Canada offers up to 37 weeks of job security after a new baby. Six months of that is paid.

In England, a new mother's job is held for almost a full year.\

"They are not countries that are economically so far behind us," Casper said. So it is not the case where their entire economy is shutdown because mothers go on maternity leave."

Experts also believe the low breastfeeding rate in the United States is related to the short maternity leave.

Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) also spoke about getting a national paid family leave program. She believes it is possible to pass Congress. The plan that Gillibrand has been promoting includes 12 weeks off at 66% wage replacement.