Paid time off to be a family? Everywhere but here — for now.

Lukas Keapproth/AP - Paid time off when a baby is born? Here’s hoping.

What is it like to give birth, but know that you and your baby won’t see each other for eight hours a day in a few short weeks because you would have no income to provide for your family if you stayed home?

Or to find out that your husband has cancer, but will have to sit through chemo alone because you can’t risk losing your job to be with him during the work week?

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It happens a lot, but pretty much only in the U.S., and it’s been that way forever. In fact, I wrote about the lack of paid leave in this country — and the fact that the U.S. is on par with places like Papua New Guinea and Swaziland when it comes to paid family leave — before I had children.

Not exactly something to be proud of.

Of 168 countries in a 2004 Harvard University study, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. But not us. Since then, even more have hopped on the family-friendly (ie: common sense) bandwagon, including Australia, which was the second-to-last industrialized nation to not have paid leave.

Now the United States stands alone.

With luck, that will change. Today, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act).

If it passes, the United States would finally catch up to the rest of the world.

This act would ensure the following:

* Workers would be provided with partial income for up to 12 weeks if they take time off to deal with a serious health condition, including childbirth; the serious health condition of a parent, spouse, child or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; or for military caregiving and leave purposes.

* Workers would earn 66 percent of their monthly wages, up to a capped amount.

* All workers in all companies would be eligible, including part-time, lower-wage and contingent workers.

* It would be funded by small employee and employer payroll contributions, much like Social Security is now.

* It would be run through the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration.

Providing this benefit would encourage people to work. It would help families financially and emotionally. And talk about trickle down: More workers would be able to keep working and earn pay even when they had to be home with a sick child or after giving birth, all of which would make it possible for them to boost the economy themselves.

Here’s hoping.



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