For a nation as powerful as the United States, it is absurd that there is no federal law that guarantees paid maternity leave. The United States leaves the option to offer parental leave in the hands of employers.
The Family Medical Leave Act provides some assistance but it is a rather ungenerous law. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious medical reasons such as childbirth.
In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must work for a covered employer, work 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, work at a location where 50 or more employees work at that location or within 75 miles of it, and have worked for the employer for 12 months.
The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave. In other words, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees do not meet the requirements of the FMLA which puts a great number of future mothers at a disadvantage.
Many European countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden offer paid maternity leave for up to one year or more. The employers of those countries also pay up to the full amount of the mother’s previous full-time salary.
Austria, for example, obliges mothers to commence maternity leave at around eight weeks before their expected due date. The Netherlands adopted a similar policy where maternity leave starts at about four to six weeks before the expected due date. Residents in countries with paid maternity leave have shown to have a healthier work/life balance, the country’s economy is robust and businesses are still able to thrive.
Maternity leave and parental leave is absolutely vital for strenghtening families. It’s an issue for men and women.
Until laws and regulations in the United States are created to cater to the needs of parents after childbirth, parents will simply have to plan according to the known fact that aid is limited. For some, that means having a hefty nest egg or mothers returning to work promptly after childbirth, among other sacrifices.
What are your thoughts on parental leave in the US as compared to various parts of the world?
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