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New York becomes first state to mandate paid time off for prenatal care

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Dive Brief:

  • Beginning in 2025, New York employees will receive 20 hours of paid prenatal healthcare leave, allowing them to attend appointments without cutting into their existing 12 weeks of paid family leave. 
  • In addition, employers must provide up to 30 minutes of paid break time for nursing employees to express breast milk for up to three years after a child’s birth.
  • “No one should ever have to fear seeking care because of the costs it will impose or time missed from work,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press release on the changes.

Dive Insight:

Workers’ reproductive and postpartum health and well-being have been a matter of increasing concern and interest — for governments and private employers alike. 

Populous blue states like California and New York have largely led the charge. As of Jan. 1, California, often at the forefront of labor issues, allows workers five days of leave for reproductive loss, including failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth and unsuccessful assisted reproduction. 

Last October, federal lawmakers introduced a similar measure. While the bill has stalled, similar efforts have seen bipartisan success in recent years with the passage of both the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act in late 2022. Those laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and to provide reasonable time and accommodations for employees to express breast milk.

Bipartisan support appears to have a limit, however; while the PWFA garnered votes from both parties at passage, the EEOC’s recent final rule including abortion among “related medical conditions” protected by the act is already facing a lawsuit initiated by Tennessee and joined by 16 other states.

Private employers have instituted certain protections and offerings as part of their benefit packages as well. Many choose to offer fertility benefits; for example, Amazon expanded such benefits to hourly and global workers last August. And Pinterest in 2021 rolled out a paid leave benefit for parents with babies in the NICU, a separate offering from their standard parental leave.  

Some companies also chose to extend abortion travel benefits — financial assistance for employees who need to travel to obtain an abortion — in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson, although a recent study found the portion that did so was relatively marginal.

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