Lady Business: Paid Parental Leave in the U.S. Sucks

I don’t have a child, but on behalf of my parent friends who are working and have to make special arrangements, I was outraged to read this Think Progress story about how paid parental leave in the U.S. measures up compared to other nations.

Infographic on how many weeks each country offers in paid maternity leave. The US is the lowest, at zero. More explanation below.

The graphic alone ends up making Italy, Norway and Canada seem like the only places that understand that whole parent/baby bonding thing that I hear is supposed to grow really awesome, well-adjusted adults:

Out of 178 nations, the U.S. is one of three that does not offer paid maternity leave benefits, let alone paid leave for fathers, which more than 50 of these nations offer…American women are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which exempts companies with fewer than 50 paid employees, but in 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer.

The Working Mother blog has more:

And yet only about half of all first-time moms in the United States are able to take any paid leave after childbirth; and just a fifth of working women with young children receive leave with full pay, according to a review of the most recent Census data by the Washington, DC–based advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families. Nor is the situation getting better. A Families and Work Institute report found only 16 percent of the companies it surveyed offered fully paid maternity leave in 2008, down from 27 percent in 1998.

In a culture where more and more women are working single mothers (and women who are generally castigated for subpar parenting skills outside of traditional marriages) it only adds insult to injury for companies to offer almost no time off for maternity leave. I have friends who have taken unpaid time off, all of their vacation time and the like in order to extend time with their infants. Have you been affected by the lack of paid maternity leave at most companies in the U.S.?

Previously: When Men Are Condescending at Work, On Confidence and Self-Advocacy

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

I'm fortunate enough in the

I'm fortunate enough in the UK to work for the Scottish Government, where you get 6 months maternity leave then another 6 months at half pay (which also applies to sick leave, incidentally).


Hi! Canadian here I just wanted to point out that although Canadian Women are entitled to the 50 weeks off that doesn't mean you're taking home your regular pay. Basically most Canadian women go on welfare during their maternity leave, only receiving 1/3 of their normal salary. While its true that some companies do offer a top off of 50% most don't. This is why many women chose not to take the full 50 weeks instead opting only for a few months that they've managed to budget for. Admittedly Canada offers more support then the US but its still far from ideal.

Not exactly

Actually, Canadian maternity leave through EI is 55% of your salary, up to a weekly maximum of $485. In Quebec 18 weeks are eligible for 70% of your salary, but I am unsure of the weekly maximum there.

and . . .

To be specific, Canadian women get Employment Insurance.
Some (well, few) employers top it up, but some do, including the federal government.

So terrible

This is really is one of the most infuriating things about the US, especially since (as far as I know), no one is really working on fixing it. I know the US has a whole lot of problems to fix, but this should definitely be on the list! I have two sisters, and my mom took off 3 months paid vacation time for each birth. By the time she had my younger sister, she didn't have any paid vacation time left, so she went unpaid for most of those 12 weeks. My mom never once in her life has used paid vacation time for an actual vacation; she used it for having babies, and then for taking kids to the doctor or something like that. That's ridiculous. Mothers already tend to be overworked and we are forcing them to give up something like vacation time simply for having a uterus. (I realize this could also apply to men choosing to use vacation time for paternity leave; it's just not as common.)

So much for valuing mothers

The thing that gets me about this is all the lip service paid to stay-at-home moms for having "the most important job." Well, if that's true, why don't we have any maternity leave policy? If it's that valued, in a true economic sense, it should be a government priority to provide for a mother to stay at home at least for the first few weeks of a person's life.

Where's Sweden?

Sweden gives <i>each</i> parent 16 months of paid leave <i>per child</i>. Along with enforced, paid maternity leave for the two months prior to due date through two months after actual birth, Germany also provides an additional 14 months of 60% pay leave (capped at €1800/month) for the parents to split up as they wish, taking the time concurrently or consecutively.

That is what we in the US get

That is what we in the US get with 'free markets.' We get the bottom rung of the ladder.

Job not protected by FMLA

The US Family Medical Leave Act, which protects some workers from losing their jobs during leave, is pretty limited, too. Only salaried employees who don't work for small companies are eligible for job protection under the FMLA. For example, I work for a company with only seven employees. My bosses are exempt from having to make my job available if I were to take leave & come back. Whether I work for a small or large company, if I'm not a salary employee, I don't get the FMLA protection of having my job waiting for me when I come back. Also - as was stated by others - even if eligible for leave, it is unpaid (unless an employer chooses on their own conscious to pay). Private insurance in the US that covers pay for leave only covers a percentage of one's pay, too.

Tips for Using a Blog the Right Way for Your Business

There are some interesting points in time in this write-up but I don't know if I see all of them center to heart. There's some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Fine write-up , thanks and we want a lot more! Added to FeedBurner as well

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Ding Ding Ding

This article said it. I was hired in at my company when I was 3 months pregnant and was actually terminated because FMLA didn't apply to me yet (you have to be there for a year to be guaranteed your job). I was hired back, but had to save all of my tax return that year and actually open a Walmart credit card to be able to afford groceries. I took 5 weeks off and struggled. With my son, I work for the same company and had enough Short Term Disability and Paid Time Off to add up to a paid 9 weeks off. I am the primary bread winner while my husband goes to college. I'm a social worker and many of my coworkers are in a similar boat as I am. It hurts our entire family when this is the case. I didn't get breastfeeding down very well with my first child because I almost figured "what's the point" when I have to be back in a few weeks.

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