By Teresa Fausey
Pew Research recently took a look at government supported parental leave—both paid and unpaid—in 38 countries.
The US came in dead last.
Some private employers here in the US offer maternity leave (hurrah!). But many don’t. And don’t even talk about paternity leave. Remember the uproar over Daniel Murphy of the Mets taking 48 hours to be with his wife and baby?
If American women want a regular paycheck—while they’re giving birth, recovering, and bonding with their newborns—most will need to “save up” all of their vacation time, sick time, annual time, personal days, and any other time their benefits package allows, and use it all up in the weeks after the baby is born. They will, that is, if they work at a company that offers paid vacation and sick time (not all do), and if their company allows them to consolidate the time.
The Family and Medical Leave Act enables employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various kinds of family care without losing their jobs, but most people (read women—the caretakers in most families) simply can’t afford to do it—they can’t forego several weeks or months of income. And, of course, they risk sidetracking their careers.
Those countries that offer at least some paid parental leave as a matter of public policy think that helping to build healthy families by allowing parents and children to form an emotional and psychological bond in a safe and secure situation is a good thing—not just for the individual families, but for the whole society.
So, what do you think? Does your workplace already offer parental leave? Is a stronger federally supported parental leave policy a better way to go? Is the commitment to families worth it?
Learn more about parental leave in the US and around the world here.