The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, is a federal law that requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year to eligible employees for the birth of a child, a serious health condition, or the care of a family member with a serious health condition.
The leave required by the federal law is unpaid, and it only applies to larger employers. But Congress provided that states may pass their own leave laws that are more generous than what is required by the federal statute.
Several states have done exactly that. (Ohio is not yet among them.) Some states, for instance, apply the leave requirement to smaller employers than those covered by the federal act. And a few states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) have passed laws that require at least certain types of leave to be PAID – something which is not included in any part of the federal FMLA.
New York will also have a paid leave law in 2018, and the District of Columbia city council just passed a paid leave law that is more generous to employees than the laws of any of the states or the FMLA.
The trend definitely seems to be in favor of expanding employee leave protection, including making the leave paid instead of unpaid. During the recent presidential campaign, in fact, President-elect Trump proposed that pregnant employees receive up to six weeks of paid maternity leave after the birth of a child.
The Trump plan did not contain many specifics, and it remains to be seen if something like it will become federal law in the next four years. But employers and employees should both expect that the trend toward requiring paid leave will continue, both on the state and federal level.