First Impressions: Comparing State Paid Family Leave Programs in Their First Years – Rhode Island’s First Year of Paid Leave in Perspective

Source: National Partnership for Women & Families, Issue Brief, February 2015

Family caregiving is a major challenge for millions of Americans. Today, more than 30 million working families include young children, nearly four million children are born each year, and more than 25 million people with paying jobs also provide unpaid care to loved ones every year.

Yet the majority of working people in the United States cannot take time away from their jobs to welcome new children or care for their loved ones without risking loss of their jobs or their economic security because they do not have access to paid family leave.

Three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – have sought to change this by putting in place public policies that respond to working families’ need for paid family leave. These states’ programs insure workers for a share of their usual wages while they take time away from their jobs to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to bond with a new child. Each of these states’ paid family leave insurance programs build upon longstanding state temporary disability insurance programs that workers can use to take time away from their jobs to address their own serious health issues, including preparing for or recovering from childbirth. California’s and New Jersey’s paid family leave programs have insured workers since 2004 and 2009, respectively. Rhode Island’s program just celebrated its first anniversary. This analysis draws on program utilization data from each state to assess workers’ use of paid family leave in the first year of each program’s operation. The analysis provides useful insights into the most common reasons people take leave, and a window into the gender dynamics of leave taking.