For people looking to start a family, one must consider what the baby will cost. When it comes to childcare and taking time off work, working-class people have to take into consideration what their employers offer — if they offer anything at all. And for us in the U.S., it’s no secret our paid maternity leave law is pretty terrible, so maybe we should all move to Finland or Denmark where they have incredible paid maternity laws. We can also just go work for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
While some employers offer comprehensive paid maternity leave, it’s still infrequent. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, however, is one of the few that are paying people their worth, and that includes expectant parents. In a series of tweets, the New York native said her staff would get incredible benefits including three months paid maternity leave, and that includes dads too.
“I’d like to share another ‘unusual’ (but shouldn’t be) part of my office policy w/ you all: Parental Leave!” she tweeted on May 10. “Three members of our small team are expectant or new parents in the first 6 mos of my term. In my office, *every* new parent receives 3 mos paid leave — including dads.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez also made waves by offering her staff a competitive salary — starting at $52,000 a year — and even paying her interns $15 an hour with benefits. Capitol Hill interns are usually not paid.
So here she’s doing it: “Expecting a child has nothing to do with our hiring decisions, & we do everything we can to accommodate,” she tweeted. “That’s supposed to be law, but there are small ways (incl self-selection) where it can play a role. We work to be a pro-family workplace. Paid parental leave applies to ALL new parents, period. Moms, dads, parents; biological or adopted. If you’ve got a new child, you get 12 weeks to spend adjusting your family to this huge transition.”
Her strategy is very thought out. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said parents could use their time how they think is best. She explains, “Our 12 weeks parental leave is up to the parent on how they want to use that time. They don’t have to take all 12 weeks at once – for example, they can take 5 weeks off and work 2 days a week to transition in; bank 3 weeks for later in the year, etc. I want to reiterate how important it is to give dads full parental leave. I strongly encourage them to take the full time. I’ve heard the “normal” paternity leave is 2 weeks. That is NOT okay!”
I’d like to share another “unusual” (but shouldn’t be) part of my office policy w/ you all: Parental Leave!
Three members of our small team are expectant or new parents in the first 6 mos of my term.
In my office, *every* new parent receives 3 mos paid leave – including dads.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 10, 2019
Her office isn’t just helping parents out with time off. She’s also helping her employees with their children right there in the office.
“We make an effort to make our office family-friendly. We talk about what play mats + cribs we need along w/ our legislative agenda. My personal office can be used for pumping/feeding. Staff can bring their babies to work if they like & we are working to prepare to have them. Additionally, paying a living min wage to our most junior staffers means they’re talented + capable (no 2nd job) to take over big-time situations, meaning senior staffers are confident enough in them to take parental leave and not feel like everything will fall apart. This convo is bigger than parental leave – it’s a larger conversation about how modern work has grown so hostile to family life. It doesn’t have to be that way! Work + family can go together, but we have to break down the barriers that force people to choose between them.”
While three months may not seem like enough, especially considering countries like Denmark offer 18 weeks of paid parental leave to both the mother and father and all at full pay. In Sweden, new parents are offered up to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. Three months paid maternity and paternity leave might seem like nothing. But in a country that doesn’t prioritize family leave at all, it’s certainly a start.