A groundbreaking new paid family leave law went into effect in California on July 1, making it easier for employees to spend time with new infants or to care for ailing relatives. The family leave law provides employees with up to 55 percent of their regular pay for up to six weeks of leave time. This law, a first in this country in terms of national social policy, will cover 13 million Californians, or nearly one-tenth of the American workforce. The United States is one of only five countries that does not offer paid leave for new mothers, out of a study of 169 countries done by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), according to The Washington Times.
At least 300,000 employees will take advantage of the new work benefits this upcoming year, and the vast majority of the 2,000 people who have already applied to the paid family leave program will be doing so to care for a newborn, according to the Oakland Tribune. Proponents of the law applaud the measure for acknowledging the changing face of the nuclear family, including increasing numbers of single-parent homes. “Mom isn’t home baking chocolate chip cookies waiting for the school bus to come home anymore. Workplaces have to reflect the lives we live,” said Netsy Firestein, director of the Labor Project for Working Families at University of California, Berkeley, according to the Oakland Tribune. The HSPH study emphasizes the health benefits that both newborns and new mothers experience when at least one parent is able to take some leave from work.
Paid leave is funded through a 0.08 percent payroll tax that amounts to a mere $4 a month on average, according to the Los Angeles Times. While the tax brings in about $129.3 million, the paid family leave program is estimated to cost between $300 million to $400 million per year. The paid leave program, however, neglects to provide job protection and return rights for employees who elect to take leave, the Oakland Tribune reports. Additionally, although California employees have been paying taxes toward this law since the beginning of January, only 22 percent of Californians were even aware that the law existed. Women of child-bearing age were among the most likely not to know about the new law, according to Ruth Milkman, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Institute of Industrial Relations, according to KaiserNetwork.org.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .