A part of me feels like this post should be started with a BAAAAHAAAAAAHAAAAA. But, that is not very professional. So instead I will start it with – did you know that among ALL industrialized nations worldwide, the United States is the ONLY country that does not have paid maternity leave? I suppose this topic interests me because I have quite a number of friends in other countries – and as we have added to our families this is a topic that has been widely discussed.
Here in the United States many moms do have the “luxury” of some amount of pay (60%ish) during maternity leave thanks to short-term disability benefits. That is if you are lucky (or rich) enough that you have previously paid into short-term disability. This is not something you can just sign up for once you find out you are pregnant. Nor is it a company covered benefit – the employee must elect to have the coverage and pay the premium.
The United States also so generously enacted the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) in 1993 – a federal law that requires many employers to allow their employees (both male and female) 12 weeks of UNPAID leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This act is guaranteeing parents the security of their jobs, not paying them on leave. This act does have exceptions as well:
- If the company has fewer than 50 employees, it is exempt from the FMLA and employees are not entitled to its benefits.
- If you have worked for the company for fewer than 25 hours per week for 50 weeks, it is exempt from the FMLA and you are not entitled to its benefits.
- If you are one of the top 10% of wage earners at your company and your employer can prove that your absence would cause significant financial harm, you are entitled to your unpaid leave but you may not be entitled to your job when you return.
- If you and your partner are employed by the same company, you are only entitled to 12 weeks total time off, not 12 weeks each.
- You will likely be required to “use up” all your vacation days, sick leave, and personal days – which is deducted from your 12 weeks leave (not in addition to).
So, it does seem that the United States is somewhat behind the times on this subject. It would be very interesting to get some feedback from moms from other countries as to what the laws are regarding maternity leave in their countries. Also, I will add that it appears that times are changing – Many states, like California, already offer paid family leave. And others, like Washington State, New Jersey and Washington DC, have passed leave programs as well. Good job!