Parental Leave In The United States vs. The World

The birth of a child is an exciting and exhausting time. Mothers are simultaneously recovering from the strains of labor and delivery while also feeding and tending to the new baby. Fathers are also intimately involved with the baby for the very first time. Ideally, these days would be filled with rest where possible, baby bonding time, and figuring out life with a new family member.

In the United States, however, this time is plagued with financial concerns. On top of facing the large hospital bills, parents have to figure out how much time they can reasonably take off work. Because the United States has no paid parental leave, parents have to sacrifice paychecks to take any time away from work for their family.

Here’s the full story of parental leave in the United States vs. the rest of the world.

Parental Leave In The United States vs. The World

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Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only 8 offer NO parental leave:

  • New Guinea
  • Suriname
  • a Few South Pacific Island Nations
  • The United States (the only high income country)

For Maternity Leave:

  • 8 countries offer none
  • 82 countries offer less than 14 weeks
  • 53 countries offer 14 to 25.9 weeks
  • 17 countries offer 26 to 51.9 weeks
  • 33 countries offer 52 weeks or more

Paternity Leave:

  • 99 countries offer none
  • 46 countries offer less than 3 weeks
  • 5 countries offer 3 to 13 weeks
  • 43 countries offer 14 weeks or more

Estonia offers 87 weeks of paid leave to new parents.

Several other countries offer over a year’s worth of paid leave as well including: Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Norway and Slovakia.

Proven Benefits of Maternity/Parental Leave:

  • Providing maternity leave lowers infant mortality
  • Maternity leave improves breastfeeding rates
  • Women with fewer than 12 weeks of maternity leave and fewer than 8 weeks of paid leave were more likely to have symptoms of depression

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Instead of paid Parental Leave, the United States has the Family and Medical Leave Act which requires employers to allow employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family events or medical emergencies without risk of job loss.

In order to qualify for FMLA leave, an employee must:

  • Have worked for their employer at least 12 months (at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months)
  • Work for a company that employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

Over 40% of American workers DO NOT qualify for FMLA.

Is FMLA Bad for Business?

20 years after the FMLA was created:

  • 91% of employers report FMLA has had either a positive or neutral effect on employee absenteeism, turnover and morale.
  • 85% of employers report complying with FMLA is very easy, somewhat easy, or has no noticeable effect.
  • Less than 2% of worksites reported confirmed misuse of FMLA.
  • Less than 3% of worksites reported suspicion of FMLA misuse.

U.S. State Laws for Parental Leave

California:

  • Since 1 July 2004, the California Paid Family Leave Act, funded by the workers themselves, provides up to 6 weeks of leave at 55% of a worker’s wage.
  • In San Francisco, a law requires businesses with 20 or more workers to cover the other 45% of wages.
  • 89% of companies in California business owners surveyed reported either positive or no negative effects on productivity, turnover (93%) and morale (99%).

New Jersey:

  • Since 2009, New Jersey has provided up to 2/3 wages (up to $615/week in 2016) for six weeks.

New York:

  • In 2016, a new law that will be fully implemented in 2021 will pay workers 67% of their average weekly wage for 12 weeks.
  • Like the California law, it will be funded by payroll deductions from the workers themselves. It will be phased in over 4 years.
  • In 2018, it will provide 8 weeks of leave at 50% of wages. In 2019 it will provide 10 weeks at 55% of wages and 2020 it will provide 10 weeks at 60% of wages. And on January 1, 2021, it will provide a full 12 weeks at 67% of wages.

Rhode Island:

  • The Rhode Island Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program provides 4 weeks of paid leave for new parents or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • The benefits range from $72/week to $752/week depending on earnings and is paid for through payroll deductions.

Individual Company Parental Leave Policies

Many companies has adopted their own leave policies to boost diversity and maintain talent. Some examples include:

  • Spotify (6 months for any new parent)
  • ZestFinance (6 months)
  • Netflix (up to a year)
  • Adobe (26 weeks for new birth mothers)
  • Amazon (20 weeks)
  • Google (18 weeks)
  • Change.org (18 weeks for any new parent)

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