Parent Voices: Hopeful outlook for new Paid Family Leave #TimeWithMyBaby

Time spent at home with newborns is a critical bonding period between parent and child, and can also prove helpful for parents simply adjusting to the little one in their lives. “There’s probably no way to prepare for a kid, that’s what you learn pretty quick,” Bobby explains. “You need a village and the village isn’t easy if you don’t have it close by. So for the times where you don’t have your family nearby, it becomes extremely stressful for work.”

New Jersey is one of the few states that offers a Paid Family Leave Insurance program, and recently, passed a law that aims to strengthen the current program. The new changes were made so that more families could access the program.

Prior to the current enactment, few parents were taking advantage of the time offered to them. In 2016, more than 56,000 infants in the Garden State had a working mother, yet only about 27,000 claims were filed by both fathers and mothers for time to bond with their baby. This was partially financially driven, as parents could only collect 60 percent of their salary if they took the six weeks off, forcing many families to make the difficult choice between time to bond with their babies and economic security.

“The main reason for me not taking it was financially,” said Bobby “So I had to go back to work within the first two weeks of my first being born, which is difficult because you don’t have sleep,” Bobby explains. “My wife took family leave, which is good… But even so, a mom at home by herself wasn’t the easiest time at all. Especially when number two comes along.”

However, the new and improved Paid Family Leave Insurance program in New Jersey now allows for twelve weeks of leave at 80 percent of salary. Hopefully, this change will enable families to feel more financially secure when taking time off.

Another issue seen with the old Paid Family Leave program was the discrepancy between who actually takes advantage of the program. This stems from a stigma among workers who take time off, especially fathers. In 2016, 80 percent of the claims were made by women. “It’s a social norm that the father works and the father goes back to work and those are the things we have to get away from,” explains Bobby.

The new program protects employees from termination or demotion for taking time off if they work for a business with more than 30 employees, an improvement from the old law that only protected workers in businesses with more than 50 employees. The change aims to help reduce the stigma and make taking time off a more accepted practice in the workplace.

New Jersey is making progress by strengthening the Paid Family Leave program. By giving parents more time off with their children at a higher wage, the state has made an investment that promises to give children a brighter tomorrow.

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