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How Does Parental Leave Policy in the US Stack Up Against Other Countries?

How Does Parental Leave Policy in the US Stack Up Against Other Countries?

You’ve heard it before—maternity and paternity policies in the United States are the pits compared to the rest of the world. But this chart from the Pew Research Center, below, spells out just how far we’re lagging behind other developed countries:

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Ready to move to Estonia—where parents can expect a year and a half of paid leave? Or how about Japan, Norway, or Austria, where new parents can take a year of paid leave as well?

If you need a refresher on US paid leave policy, the gist is that—surprise—we don’t have one. There’s no law in the US that mandates employers offer paid leave for new parents. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), some workers have (unpaid) job protection for 12 weeks after giving birth or adopting a child. (You have to have been at your job for a year and work at a company with more than 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work to take the 12 weeks.) A few states in the US have put laws into place that offer partially paid leave, like California, Rhode Island, and New York, but overall, only 14% of civilian workers in the US have access to paid family leave, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Here’s what’s truly staggering: 25% of women in the US have to go back to work within two weeks of having a baby to stay afloat. For those reading who’ve had a baby and dealt with postpartum recovery at home, it’s almost unfathomable: two weeks is a peak time for baby blues, cluster feeding and leaky boobs, sore bottoms or stomachs, and an astonishingly small amount of sleep.

Relief may be on the horizon—some reports suggest more companies, especially bigger corporations, are beefing up their paid leave policies on their own to stay competitive and retain female employees. And as we continue to put pressure on congress to push forward a federal paid leave policy, organizations like The Mom Project are helping moms and future moms take their talents to the companies respecting that work life mix. To continue the conversation about motherhood in the workplace, check out Monica + Andy and The Mom Project’s International Women’s Day event, happening this Friday, March 8th.

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