There is a huge a problem with maternity leave in the United States, there isn’t a guaranteed policy for ALL workers!
When I was in my early 20s, maternity leave seemed like an excellent 3-month vacation and I didn’t think much more about it than that. Little did I know that I already worked for a company that was in the minority to provide a working mom with any paid maternity leave.
Recently, I was invited to the White House to speak about working family policies at a small roundtable in the West Wing. I was able to talk through some of the benefits I received at my current job while on maternity leave.
What Maternity Leave Looked Like for Me
- I received 66.5% of my pay for 11 out of the 14 weeks I had off. Keep in mind that the US Federal Government protected my job for only 11 of those weeks. Although the standard is 12, my husband took one to tend to me after my last-minute c-section and since he works for the same company as I, the government saw fit to dock me his week. Luckily my employer allows 12 weeks plus a 30-day leave (if approved by management). All things considered and from what I know about other US companies, I am lucky so I cannot complain about this in comparison to the
- After 8 years at my company, I received 21 paid vacation days, this includes sick time and is accrued throughout the year. However, while on maternity leave they drain your paid time off (PTO) bank and you do not accrue while you are out so you start back at 0. This makes transitioning back into full-time work particularly challenging.
- I was able to negotiate 2 work from home days when I went back to work. They have since decided to move that down to one (a decision I am still not happy about).
- A mother’s room is offered at my work office. There is no dedicated fridge for the breast milk, I used a special isolated tote for that, but I was afforded the opportunity to pump in private, in sanitary conditions and I never received grief for the time spent away from the desk and for that I am very grateful.
Now here comes the sad part, I am one of only 13% of women with access to any paid maternity leave in the United States and frankly, what I got, still isn’t all that great.Only 13% of American working moms have access to any form of paid maternity leaveClick To Tweet
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only protects a woman’s job for 12 weeks if she works for a company that employs 50 people or more and, of course, there are exceptions to this. There is no national law to pay a woman any part of her salary for these 12 weeks.
How? Why? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Anyone who complains about a single mom who takes public assistance needs to re-evaluate their stance. The wages lost just for taking 12 unpaid weeks will put some women (especially a single woman) out on the street. How does anyone think this benefits our children?
What About Other Industrialized Countries?
- France: 16 weeks and 100% pay
- Australia: 18 weeks and 100% pay with the option for both parents to take up to 12 months with that same 18-week benefit
- Romania: 126 days and 85% pay
- Italy: 5 months and 80% pay
- Canada: 17 weeks at 55% pay with the option to take 52 weeks by either parent, wages from there are determined by the province
Change Needs to Happen
The United States is behind. Not offering any wage protection to a working mom is disgusting for a country that is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Remember that many women are the breadwinners in their families, this is the reality. It’s also likely that the women who are not offered any paid maternity benefits live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to take 6 weeks unpaid little alone 12.
This is not okay.
In January of 2015, President Obama granted federal workers 6 paid weeks of family leave. When I visited the White House he spoke about this. It gives me hope that changes will be made by the time my daughter is in the workforce. It makes me sad that it hasn’t happened yet.
One initiative that I urge everyone to start supporting is the FAMILY Act. It just might be the best chance to see change before I have another baby.