In a state bursting at the seams with children, Utah’s family leave policies leave a lot to be desired. At this time, both state and private sector workers do not have parental leave rights beyond those provided by the Family Medical and Leave Act or those that employers are kind enough to give to their employees. State workers, though, are able to use their sick time to help care for a new child or spouse recovering from pregnancy, but that is all.
Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is seeking to remedy that with HB 188 – Paid Family Leave.
[pullquote]In family-friendly Utah, the state has the opportunity to lead the way with a family leave policy that benefits children and parents.[/pullquote]The legislation requires executive agencies to provide an eligible employee paid parental leave upon the birth or adoption of said employee’s child. The fiscal note has not been released yet, but it is expected shortly, and depending on how steep the price tag is, Romero might run into difficulty in trying to pass the legislation.
Furthermore, in Governor Gary Herbert’s recent State of the State address, the chief executive touted how efficient and lean state government is to thunderous applause, maternity or paternity leave would have a negative effect on the number of state employees available for government to function, potentially impacting the public. Though having parents available during the first months of a child’s life is important, some lawmakers may not be willing to reduce government efficiency.
It should be noted that in a 2014 study from the National Partnership for Women and Families gave Utah an “F” grade for its maternity leave policies.
“The United States cannot wait any longer for public policies that honor new parents and their children. Paid leave policies, more substantial access to unpaid family and medical leave, paid sick days, pregnancy accommodation laws and other family friendly policies yield benefits for workers, families, employers, communities and the economy. Despite the imperative for change and the progress states have made over the last several years, progress has been slow. Without question, the toll taken by inaction is high,” the study would conclude.
The law will only apply those working in state government. Earlier this month, Romero expressed her hope that private businesses will follow if the state moves in favor of parental leave.
The bill has already found some community support. HB 188 is among a trio of bills being supported by the ACLU of Utah, Voices for Utah Children, and the newly-formed Utah Women’s Coalition.
Utah purports to be a family-friendly state, and it is time for us to put our money where its mouth is. Paid family leave would help countless citizens care for and make vital connections with their offspring, without forcing them to lose wages to make it possible. Furthermore, by setting an example, it makes it easier for private industry to follow suit. It’s the right thing to do.
Letting parents be with their children at the start of their life is just the right thing to do, and the legislature should be willing to allow parents to raise children the best that they can.
To contact Representative Romero, click here or call 801-722-4972 (Cell).
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