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?

maternity leave


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scien... science_spot

My thoughts on maternity leave.....  Great for the mom & baby, but killer on the employees left behind to cover while the new mom is out.  That's where we are NOW at work.  Being short a whole person, when our team is only 7 total...... it hurts.  I could not imagine the impact if mom was able to stay out a full year or more, and we had to sit here, not hiring out for her position, kwim??  BTW we are a giant company, so we do abide by FMLA, but our department is small, so being down 15% of the work force is significant to us.  in addition, I would hate to think anyone would be upset when mom returns, and act differently toward her, for putting them in a position to be overowrked for so long, covering for her.  I think if a mom is going to be out for more than 3-6 months, they need to decide between staying home or working, and act on it.

I just returned from maternity leave less than a year ago.  It was my second child and I took 7 weeks, so returning was pretty rough, and I was severly sleep-deprived.  BUT I was promoted while I was on leave :)  So I know my company values women in the workplace, and doesn't make any discriminations based on 'disability' (my maternity leave).

I can only imagine if maternity leave wasn't protected under disability, what the outcome would be.  Maternity leave is disability only until your doctor says you are good to work again... then you are FMLA, not disability.

rainm... rainmommy

i took 7 weeks 6 week for maternoty 1 week vac time for my dd b/c my work didnt offer fmla unless ur family was on death bed and need in home care they didnt consider maternity leave or haveing a baby isnt that catigory but here in pa dads can take up to 6-8 weeks off of unpaid leave to stay home with the baby

Capta... CaptainMcMommy

i wish america's maternity leave was longer. 12 weeks is not enough time for most people, but in this economy people also can't afford to stay at home. i know a lot of women who go back to work after having a baby and only last for a short while before quiting. i believe that if women were allowed/able to stay home longer that they'd be better employees when they go back to work. so many companies aren't family minded. i used to work at a big chain daycare where the directors were all about working and not family at all. if anyone there needed time off to take a child to the doctor or something else even if it was just for an hour or 2 the directors would be quite upset. my family is #1 to me which is why my DH and i felt it best for me to stay home with DD. i can't imagine having to leave her to go to work and she's 14 weeks old!

Joyan... JoyandLove

I think we can do better with the maternity leave. IT should be longer.

Cafe... Cafe MicheleZ

I think a company should hire a temp to fill in for the mom while she is out on maternity leave.

Sasha907 Sasha907

I've had similar thoughts lately.  I never really knew how lacking our maternity leave system is in the USA.  I have a four month old son who I have been blessed to be able to stay home with.  The only way that this was possible was by cashing out a 401k, already decimated by market conditions AND  at a 10% (minimum) penalty!  You can cash out early only in the case of catastrophic illness or purchasing a new home.... How about being a single mom who had the ability/foresight to set aside funds for future use, but being unable to utilize them in a manner (staying home with my son!) beneficial to me and my family.  Very frustrating.   I am also unable to collect ANY pay at all from state disability OR employer based compensation.  Very sad.  I am blessed that I can keep myjob and health insurance during my maternity leave, up to a year, but get ZERO compensation. So I agree, there's a lot that can and should be done to help moms stay home with their little ones.  I didn't have my baby for a sitter/daycare center to raise!  Besides, who can afford child care nowadays anyway?!

squish squish

I think that it would be wise for employers to offer work from home positions, and/or hire temps. Obviously some jobs would not be possible at home, but in that case, maybe a temporary new position could be considered. On site, very accessable day care could be another alternative for some larger companies... maybe even smaller companies?

Another alternative is to plan to stay home, with a realistic budget. Sometimes women are planning to go back, but then realize that they really want to stay home. I think that if you at least gave yourself the option, then you wouldn't feel so trapped in needing to work.

MammaMcC MammaMcC

I live in Canada and mothers are entitled to 12 months maternity leave so long as they have worked 800hrs since the last time you went on mat leave or unemployment.  We also have the option that the father can take the leave instead or mom take 6 months and dad take 6 months.  You want the best maternity leave go to France, they get a maid paid for by the government to help the first month or so!

Soon2... Soon2Be8489

I as well live in Canada and ironically enough, we were just having this conversation at work the other day, I had NO idea that American's were only entitled to have 6 weeks mat leave, what the hell do they think you guys are? Do they not sure respect towards pregnant woman either? He's my thoughts, what if you had a complicated birth, and also needed a c-section? Are you entitled to a longer period of time off or do you need to ettempt being a new parent and recover on little sleep back on the job? Like wow, this makes me angry as well. Why is it the rights can't be equal everywhere, I personally like how it works here in Canada, I believe everywhere else deserves just the same. YES I agree it's hard when an employee is on mat leave, while we so call "Struggle" you know what, I can guarentee there having a hell of a harder time then we are. Wow glad someone has brought this up. Things do need to change, was it a Man that enforced the mat. leave in the states, likely...

jcsmummy jcsmummy

i was surprised to hear that americans get such a short time. i'm in canada, i got 15 weeks maternity, then 35 weeks parental (which either parent can take) you get 55% of your wages from employment insurance, and if you're lucky your work will top that up ( i got 85% with my top-up). i think they way it is done there is just plain disrespectful to a mother who has just given birth, and to the child who is still tiny and in desperate need of his mother.

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