Thursday, March 7, 2013

95% of Families Get Paid Maternity Leave - Why Doesn't Yours?

After countless years of failed fertility treatments and triplicated paperwork, one of my friends was finally able to adopt a baby.  Her beautiful son's name is Lucas.

My friend also just found out that her employer will provide paid maternity leave to adoptive parents. 

"Lucky girl," I told her.  I know my employer doesn't offer paid maternity leave, and yours probably doesn't either.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law in the U.S. in 1993.  FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees at certain businesses.  This leave applies to many medical emergencies, including the birth of a child or to care for a family member.

Not all employers are required to provide medical leave, depending on how many employees they have on their payroll.  Only about 60% of workers in America are even eligible for FMLA.  The leave mandated by FMLA is also unpaid.  So while you can take the time off to deal with your medical situation, you won't necessarily be able to pay your bills.  Many women will only one or two weeks off for childbirth because their families can't afford any more lost paychecks.

America is normally an outlier compared to the rest of the First World.  However, when it comes to maternity leave, we are in a category all by ourselves.  A study was done of 168 countries and what type of maternity leave they have.  All but 4 had paid maternity leave, normally around 10 to 20 weeks.  Sometimes this is paid by the employer, other times by the government (similar to Social Security or unemployment insurance).  I am not used to being outdone by a bunch of developing nations when it comes to life in America.

Below are some reasons why businesses and legislators need to readdress paid parental leave:

1) Helps business recruit and retain better staff.  Parental leave increases women's employment.  With more women graduating from college then men, employment policies that reflect the needs of your workforce just make sense.

2) Improve children's health.  Paid parental leave improves children's health, both as babies and throughout their leaves.  This decreases health costs to society over time.

3) Human beings have kids.  We have been having children for millions of years.  Babies aren't going away, and neither are parents.  Business and government need to treat the situation in a thought-out, systematic way, instead of treating the new generation like a chaotic emergency that needs fixed.

Kids these day - amiright?

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