When any parent prepares to bring home a new baby, one of the biggest concerns is finances.
How will they afford time off work to heal, adjust, and spend the first few crucial weeks with their little one? With very few U.S. States providing a paid maternity leave program, many new parents struggle. Finances should not be the forefront of worry when caring for a new baby.
Maternity leave for all new mom’s just makes sense on so many levels, yet the United States is one of a handful of countries in the WORLD who offers no federally paid maternity leave.
What is Paid Maternity Leave?
A paid maternity leave program ensures new mothers are paid for a set time off to care for a new baby, whether adopted or birthed. It would help all income levels, all walks of life to get off to a great start by lessening one’s worry for families.
One step even further would be to offer a complete parental leave package, which would include fathers as well, should they wish to take time off from employment to spend time with their family.
Currently, employees in the U.S. are entitled to 12 weeks of UNPAID leave according to the Family and Medical Leave Act, however, most people cannot afford this time off. Besides this job-protecting law, the FMLA only applies to employees who work for companies with 50 employees or more. This policy is oppressive and barbaric, as many have voiced in a thought-provoking article by Kristen Tea asking how women in other countries view this policy.
Which States Have Paid Maternity Leave?
Unbelievably, there are only four U.S. States which offer a paid family and medical leave. These are Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, and New York. However, even though these states offer a form of paid leave, a specific set of criteria must be met to qualify.
You need to be working a definite number of hours or weeks. You must work for a covered employer. The company you work for must have a determined number of employees. On top of that, you are often only paid a percentage of your working wages.
You could consult a maternity leave calculator online to help determine your estimated amount.
Why No Paid Leave As of Yet?
The United States is the only highly developed country in the WORLD to not have federally paid maternity leave. This begs the question–WHY?
Forcing mothers back to work only a few short weeks after bringing home Baby is cruel and shameful.
However, some people feel it isn’t their responsibility to pay for someone to have a baby. It’s their choice. This train of thought is barbaric and ignorant.
As Kirsten Tea replies to the question why should I pay for you to have a baby, “The answer is: for the betterment of society.”
People have no issue paying taxes for roads, emergency services, and schools in their community. Since these are all services that not everyone uses, should taxes stop being spent on these things? No. They help improve the community and keep things running well and keeping the community safe and happy.
And what is the alternative? If a couple can’t afford it, they should just not have children? If that’s the option critics of paid maternity leave would demand, they can also expect a shrinkage of the U.S. population, the U.S. workforce, and a slew of other societal and economic repercussions.
Countries that are Doing it Right
There aren’t many countries without paid maternity leave. However, the United States could take a lesson from these countries around the world with their paid maternity leave programs. These countries may make you re-think where you call home! Some countries even go a step further with additional provisions for raising little ones.
Paid Maternity Leave by Country
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- Mothers can start seven weeks before baby arrives fully paid
- After the baby is born, 16 weeks paid regardless of employment status, student status, etc.
- It is a maternity grant
- Fathers entitled to 8 weeks paid paternity leave
- After the child turns 3, parents can split up time off to share between home and work to care for their little ones up until they enter second grade
- Four weeks paid before birth
- 14 weeks paid maternity leave at full pay
- Fathers are entitled to 2 weeks during that same 14 weeks as mothers
- Additionally, parents can split 32 weeks how they wish
- An added 14 weeks is available if the child or parent is ill
- 18 weeks for mothers fully paid
- Parents are then given 480 days of paid leave at 80% of their wages to split how they wish
- 90 days is given solely to new fathers for paid paternity leave
- Parents divide the nine months; 3 months for mothers, three months for fathers and remaining three months to use how they wish
- Each parent is paid 80% of their usual wage
- Mothers get 20 weeks at full pay
- Afterwards, one year paid but at differing levels of pay: weeks 1-26 is 100%, 27 to 39 is at 60% and 40 to 52 at 30% of their usual wages
- Fathers are given one week at full pay
- Mothers are entitled to 24 weeks of paid maternity leave at 70% of their wages
- Fathers are entitled to one week at full pay
- After the first 24 weeks, parents are entitled to 156 weeks to split how they wish at 70% for the first 104 weeks and a flat rate for the remaining time
- mothers get 18 fully paid weeks
- fathers get four weeks at full pay
- 156 additional weeks are given to parents to split how they desire, and they can choose to be paid 100% for the first 52 weeks or at 70% for the first 104 weeks. The additional time is unpaid, but jobs are protected
- mothers are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave at 55% of their wage
- parental leave of 35 weeks is available for parents to share how they wish at 55% of their wage
You may wonder, how much do you get paid on maternity leave in these countries, but there are many variables involved. Some countries require you to have a certain number of work hours before giving birth, while others are dependent on family income levels. Very few are just given to anyone who gives birth, regardless of employment or unemployment.
Benefits of Paid Maternity Leave
Whether or not you have or plan to have children, contributing to a federally funded paid maternity leave program is best for the country as a whole. Didn’t we all come from a mother and father at some point? How did they care for you?
Would you have liked to see more of your parents as a child? Maybe spend more time with them? Here are some important benefits of paid maternity leave laws; not only for mothers, but paid maternity leave for fathers too.
Lower Infant Mortality Rates
If ever there was a good enough reason to implement a paid maternity leave program-now is it, since there is a direct correlation between lack of paid leave and higher infant mortality rates.
A new study from McGill University and UCLA shows that for every additional month of paid maternity leave offered to women in low- and middle-income countries, the infant mortality rates drop by 13 percent. (www.wbur.org)
This is especially true for low and middle-class income families trying to struggle financially even before having a new baby.
More Time for Breastfeeding
This may not seem like an important point for anyone who doesn’t have or wants children. However, it is beneficial to everyone. Because of the numerous studies done recently, it is a known fact that breastmilk is the best food for babies.
Allowing new mothers the time to get the hang of this new skill and allow babies to get in as much milk as possible from mom, is crucial to better health. Since better health means fewer trips to the doctor, it helps the bottom line of employers providing medical coverage.
Lower Rates of Post-Partum Depression
Since mental health issues are at the forefront of media attention lately, this should strike a chord with many people. Because it also can be reflected financially for companies offering counseling services, this is one less pay out for employers. A healthier mom means healthier children and an overall healthier society.
A mom’s responsibility for the baby, the household and her work duties upon returning from maternity leave could affect her risk of developing postpartum depression. After delivering a child, new mothers face the challenge of balancing the care for their infant while also coping with their postpartum health, home, and work life. Going back to work in such a short time span can add to postpartum depression with the recent added stress of looking over their newborn and easing their way back into a work routine. (www.medicaldaily.com)
Implementing a paid maternity leave would lessen the financial worry and stress for parents, which contributes to postpartum depression. Other factors that contribute to PPD are feelings of guilt for leaving Baby so soon after birth and not being able to breastfeed adequately. The stress of having a newborn in the care of a stranger also creates parental anxiety.
Action is Needed NOW
It is long past due time that the federal government stepped up and started caring for the parents of the next generation. These new babies will one day be in charge of our corporations, governments, and laws. Taking financial care and responsibility for those who will represent and care for the country and their caregivers only make sense.
For those who only see the dollar signs involved in a paid maternity leave program-think of it as an important business investment. Your mother will thank you.