Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Do Americans Get Short-Changed on Maternity Leave?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Do Americans Get Short-Changed on Maternity Leave?

Article excerpt

It's called a blessed event. But for vast numbers of women around the world, the birth of a baby is anything but a blessing at work. Faced with lost wages or the loss of a job, they discover that maternity is grounds for discrimination.

Nowhere in the industrialized world is this truer than in the United States. In a sobering survey of 152 countries, released this week by the United Nations, the US ranks as one of only six nations without a policy mandating paid maternity leave. The other countries include Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

The study, "Maternity Protection at Work," was conducted by the International Labor Organization in Geneva, a UN agency. It finds that new mothers in the Czech Republic receive the most paid leave by law - 28 weeks. In Hungary, they get 24 weeks; in Italy, five months; and in Canada, 17 weeks. Scandinavian countries give extensive paid leave that may be taken by either parent. In nearly half the countries, payment comes from the social welfare system. In 41 countries, employers pay. Other nations combine both systems. In the US, the still-controversial 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Although it covers both men and women, it excludes workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees. But here, as elsewhere, policy is one thing and practice is another. Companies can grudgingly comply with the law but still create a climate hostile to pregnant women and young mothers. And then there are those missing paychecks. Despite legal protection, many American women return to work without taking 12 weeks. For most, the reason is economic: The family can't manage without the mother's salary. Even women in managerial positions, who can often afford to stay out longer, are returning early. Although no studies have tracked the actual length of their leaves, anecdotal evidence runs strong. Talk to new mothers in a variety of fields and their concerns are the same: They worry that they'll be seen as less committed than other employees. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.