BIG Health Care Issue: Maternity Leave

maternity leave health care

Photo by JSVDP

I'll admit I've been in the dark about maternity leave. It's not something I had to worry about until now and when my sister was on maternity leave two years ago, the company she worked for ending up laying her off during her leave. Long story, but she did get severance and was able to stay home with baby for four months until she found another job.

I had no idea that some employers do not have to offer maternity leave. And I've read many stories here on CafeMom and beyond about women losing their jobs because they need to take time off to give birth. I'm outraged.

I checked out maternity leave around the world. Did you know that in Italy, they offer five months of maternity leave at 80 percent of pay? Russia offers 140 days at full pay. I also heard that in Australia, moms on maternity leave have the option of taking a full year, all while maintaining job security.


Yet in the US, under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the most a mom can take is 12 weeks...and that's only if she works for a big company. And that's often not at full pay.

What's wrong with the United States? Did the feminist movement set us back in the case of caring for newborns?

A professor at Columbia, Jane Waldfogel, thinks so and she noted the different goals of the European and American feminist movements in a USA Today article.

European feminists took a stance for mothers and demanded well-funded maternity leave and child care.

American feminists did not. But that was then. And some feminists of today are like the Europeans of yesterday. But that hasn't changed our system of health care. Yet.

Maternity leave rules differ from state to state. In that same article, it points out that "five states --- California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island -- and Puerto Rico require employers to have temporary disability programs, which pay benefits if the pregnancy is defined as a disability by a doctor."

Do you have a problem with maternity leave being labeled as a disability?

The article also interviews a NYC public school teacher who has no paid maternity leave. Shocking, isn't it?

This makes me want to do something. Something big. We need changes!

What are your thoughts on maternity leave? What can we do to make some changes?

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