Parents want to see equal paid leave for birth and adoptive parents

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s hard for new parents to leave their baby and head back to work, some have to do that earlier than others. New York State doesn’t require employers to pay parents during family leave.

New parents Tamara and Marc Principe would like to see that change. Tamara Principe looked into her son’s eyes for the first time eight months ago.

“You’re just in awe every day like, ‘Oh my god, he did that, like look!’” she said.

Their son Zac is a blessing. The couple couldn’t get pregnant and tried months of fertility treatments. They adopted Zac in February.

“When he was less than 48 hours old we brought him home, it was the best day of our life,” said Tamara Principe.

Tamara took six weeks of unpaid leave to bond with Zac, while Marc’s company offered him two weeks of paid family leave.

“It would be much better to have more but I’m thankful I got two weeks because that’s a new thing for my company,” said Marc Principe.

Only 12 percent of private sector employees have access to paid family leave, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New York State doesn’t require it.

RELATED | See additional factoids from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“When you don’t have the pay coming in for six to eight weeks, that is a big hardship on the family,” said Tamara Principe.

There is new momentum behind paid family leave in the private sector but adoptive mothers like Tamara still face shorter leave than birth mothers because they’re not eligible for disability.

The Hilton Hotel chain now offers new parents two weeks paid time off. Birth mothers get an additional eight weeks of maternity leave.

Microsoft offers adoptive parents 12 weeks of paid leave, while birth mothers get 20 weeks.

We asked Tamara and Marc if they feel leave should be equal for adoptive and birth parents.

“Yes, because like I said, it’s more than physical,” said Tamara. “It’s more than just the mom recuperating after giving birth. Bonding is so much more than that.”

Chief Medical Officer at Women and Children’s Hospital, Dr. Stephen Turkovich, told News 4 it’s important for any parent, whether adoptive or birth, to be with their baby during the first months of life.

“If you think about the brain development and the imprinting that occurs, it really occurs over the first three months,” said Dr. Turkovich.

He said babies need constant snuggling, bonding and feeding during that time.

“I would never want anyone to feel guilty if they can’t spend time with their child,” he said. “Make the most of the time you have with your child.”

Parents may get more paid time off from the job if a State Senate bill goes through.

MORE | Read the Senate bill in-depth here. 

Right now the state defers to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

“Paid family leave’s time has come,” said State Senator Marc Panepinto, D-Buffalo.

Senator Panepinto is a co-sponsor of a plan to give adoptive and birth parents in New York 12 weeks of paid time off at two-thirds of their regular pay.

Lawmakers would change current workers compensation law to create an insurance fund that business owners could use to pay their workers.

“Mothers and fathers will be able to take 12 weeks of paid leave, tap into this insurance product that all employers in the state would be paying into, as well as employees, and take that time off to care for a newborn,” Panepinto explained.

He said creating an insurance fund takes the burden off employers’ shoulders. Versions of this bill has come up every year since 2008 but Panepinto said there hasn’t been agreement across party lines. There is also a competing draft law that would give parents six weeks of paid leave.

Passing legislation would make New York a leader. There are only three other states that provide paid family leave, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Parents Marc and Tamara Principe told News 4 this is a move in the right direction.

“It’s just those little moments, when you’re watching him sleep or cuddling with him, you can’t get those memories back,” said Tamara Principe.

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