Starting next year, more than 2 million Americans will be guaranteed 12-weeks paid time off if they give birth to, adopt, or foster a child, instead of having to use sick days or unpaid leave.

By Kristi Pahr
December 23, 2019

Beginning in 2020, roughly 2.3 million Americans will have 12 weeks of paid parental leave. A landmark bill, signed into law last week by Trump, guarantees paid leave to federal employees in the event of childbirth, adoption, or fostering a child. The law, which was tucked into a wide-ranging defense spending bill, is set to take effect in October 2020. The change is significant—currently, government employees aren't guaranteed any paid leave at all and must use paid time off or unpaid leave for maternity or paternity leave.

The new law will apply to all new parents, meaning both moms and dads can take 12 weeks of paid time off. It does not, however, contain provisions for personal illness or caring for a sick or injured family member.

Advocates say it's high time American workers were guaranteed paid parental leave as the U.S. has lagged behind other nations in the adoption of paid leave policies. “The U.S. is dead last in the world in terms of not providing any sort of paid leave,” Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-director of Family Values @ Work, a group that advocates for paid family leave, told CNBC News.

The last time any change regarding leave policies was enacted at the federal level was in 1993 with the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees who work in firms with more than 50 employees. Proponents say the paid leave law is a step in the right direction but still falls short of other countries that allow paid leave to care for sick family members.

Workers will need to be employed by the government for at least 12 months prior to taking leave and must work for a minimum of 12 weeks after returning from leave to qualify.

Also tucked into the massive defense spending bill were funds earmarked to start a 6th branch of the U.S. military, President Trump's Space Force and a law to increase the minimum smoking age to 21 years old.