Massachusetts’s previous legislation on the topic, the Maternity Leave Act, applied only to women in workplaces with more than 6 employees. Men were covered only under federal law, only if they worked for employers with at least 50 employees, and only if they had worked for that employer for at least 12 months and 1250 hours. However, the new legislation no longer differentiates between male and female employees. The Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, replacing the Maternity Leave Act, requires all employers who employ 6 or more employees to grant every employee 8 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.
This legislation helps to challenge archaic gender roles in our culture. It avoids stereotypical assumptions that women should be primarily responsible for child-rearing roles and men primarily responsible for the role of sole breadwinner. It also makes a giant leap in ensuring that equal opportunities are available to same-sex couples who choose to bring a child into their lives. Families are now able to make their own choices, unencumbered by outdated legislation, about their roles in raising their children and maintaining their families.
Though MRW is happy to report on this accomplishment, there are still some pivotal changes that Massachusetts and the United States need to make on this issue. Amongst the top democratic economies in the world, the United States is the only one that does not offer paid parental leave. Political change may come slowly in this country, but we hope there will come a day where our country will catch up to the rest on this issue.