U.S. Needs Paid Maternity Leave

According to the PBS News Hour, the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only countries in the world that do not provide any paid time off for new mothers. Under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, new moms who work full time at firms with 50 or more employees are guaranteed 12 unpaid weeks of leave. Unfortunately, even this unpaid leave fails to cover fully 40 percent of American workers.

Consider how the U.S. treats new moms compared to other countries—the Netherlands provides 16 weeks of paid family leave, 52 weeks in Denmark after the birth of a baby, almost 70 weeks in Sweden and 12 weeks in Burundi. In the U.S., only 1 in 8 receive any paid family leave and those benefits come from private employers.

As an example, Johnson & Johnson announced earlier this year that new parents—maternal, paternal or adoptive—will now be eligible for seven additional weeks of paid leave during the first year of the child’s birth or adoption. This means that moms who give birth can take up to 17 paid weeks off and new dads receive 9 weeks. Moreover, new parents do not have to take the leave consecutively, allowing for greater flexibility during the important first year.

When Google extended paid maternity leave to 18 weeks, the rate at which new moms left the company fell by 50 percent.

Kudos to companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Google and many others for doing the right thing to support working parents. Working parents should not have to rely upon their employers to do the right thing as paid family leave should be legally required as it is in other countries throughout the world.