Home / Fall 2015 / Should America offer paid leave to new parents?

Should America offer paid leave to new parents?

Sean Wylie and his wife Laura Wylie of Oak Park, Ill., feed their 7-month-old daughter Matilda on Saturday April 18, 2015. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS) Photo Credit: MCTCampus

Written by Zenobia Harris, Copy Editor

“Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.”

President Obama gave this statement during his State of the Union address. As far-fetched as that may seem, it may be truer than people realize.

According to an International Labor Organization study, the United Kingdom is leading in the amount of paid parental leave days offered with about 280 days and 90 percent pay, followed by Russia with 140 days of paid maternity leave at 100 percent pay, then Italy, Spain and so on.

Out of all the countries listed, the U.S. is at the bottom of the barrel with zero paid maternity or paternity leave days.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act states that employers must offer protected and unpaid leave to employees for family and medical reasons. The law excludes most businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Whether an employee receives payment during leave is at the discretion of the company.

There are many ethical problems with our nation’s parental leave policies, starting with a lack of required paid leave of any sort, inadequate amount of time off for new mothers to recuperate and for new parents to spend time with their children. But, our policies could also be hindering progress economically and contributing to the wage gap.

Netflix is hoping to make a change by offering a year of unlimited paid parental leave to some of its employees. Google has found that adding a few weeks of paid leave almost cut new mother’s post-partum attrition in half.

California and New Jersey are already offering paid leave programs and they seem to be doing well. The California Employment and Development Department’s 2013 study shows that eligible workers received at least 55 percent of the rate of their weekly pay and over $500 in weekly benefits during leave.

Parental leave and wage gap issues are already a big part of discussion with the upcoming election. Candidates like Hillary Clinton are vowing to fight for paid maternity leave, while others seem to oppose it.

Even though other countries and a few states have shown that paid leave is doable, the road to enforcing such programs for parents will be a complicated one. If the U.S. makes parental leave a priority and a requirement, it could prove to be the right move for our nation’s employees and families.

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