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Family 411: Paid Maternity Leave

Updated: Tuesday, November 19 2013, 04:25 PM EST

The U.S. is one of the last remaining countries in the world without paid maternity leave. A women's magazine says it's time to change the law. 

Many American families struggle when they welcome that new little blessing with arranging time off and paying the bills when they're not at work. The National Partnership For Women and Families wants to change that with a mandatory Parental Leave Insurance Program.

"You're not getting that paycheck for a couple of weeks, so on top of giving birth and all of the expenses that come with that, you're concerned about the decrease in your income," said new mom Yvonne Haley.

The National Partnership for Women and Families says only about one fifth of working moms in the U.S. get paid maternity leave. Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993, allowing men and women on the job for a year to take up to 12 weeks off for the birth of a child. But it doesn't require paid leave.  Smaller companies don't have to comply, and not all part-time workers benefit.

"The folks with the lowest income, the folks who most need it are less likely to have it because their employer is less likely to offer it as a perk," said employment discrimination expert Jeannette Cox.

Australia is the second to last industrialized nation in the world to provide paid maternity leave. Many countries, including Britain, Brazil, France and the Netherlands pay for paternity leave too.
Only the U.S. and two other countries don't mandate paid leave for new moms.

Employment discrimination expert Jeannette Cox says Americans consider having children a private matter and adds many view mandatory parental leave as too pricey.

Parental leave supporters cite research touting public benefits, children who are healthier, and parents who are more attached to the workforce. Working Mother Magazine is campaigning to ensure paid parental leave for all of America's workers by 2015.  It's pushing Congress to pass a new law, and asking men and women across the country to sign its online petition.

Family 411: Paid Maternity Leave

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