In a welcome follow up to last year’s Pregnancy Fairness Act, this year the General Assembly passed a law allowing new parents to have six weeks of leave following a child’s birth, adoption into the family, or foster care placement. Six weeks is pretty much the bare minimum for a new mother to make it back to work. Sleep deprivation together with the physical demands of an infant combine to make doing anything else productive unrealistic.
More to the point (because there are undoubtedly tougher women than I am), licensed daycare providers may not accept infants until they are six weeks old. So this law permits a woman to have a baby, take a short period of time to care for herself and the child before returning to work. Under the new law, the employer need not pay the employee, if she doesn’t have any accrued leave available, but has to keep her on the health plan on the same terms. If she doesn’t come back, though, it can in most cases recover from her its cost of continuing the health insurance for that month or two.
It can be hard to lose an employee for six weeks. It can also be hard to recruit, hire and train a new person in that time frame. The public policy reason for protecting new parents’s jobs for a short period is profound. We come nowhere near Europe in supporting families in some in their formation stage. But we can make a few allowances here: six weeks, opportunity for smaller employer to claim an exception because of the extreme hardship of it. This new law applies to employers of at least 15 full-time employees, beginning October 1, 2014.