Mamas on Bedrest: Sign the Petition for Paid Parental Leave

September 27th, 2011

Mamas on Bedrest, it’s time that parents in the United States receive paid time off when bringing home a new child-be it a newborn or a newly adopted child.

According to an article in Working Mother Magazine, 178 countries around the world offer some sort of paid parental leave. The US is not one of them.

“The U.S. is the only high-income nation not to have paid maternity leave, while almost all middle- and low-income countries offer it, too,” says Jody Heymann, founding director of McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy and author of Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth That We Can’t Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone. The exceptions include Swaziland, Papua New Guinea—and us.

Despite the fact that numerous studies have shown the benefit on health and family for paid parental leave, and the broad support for paid family medical leave (Approximately 76% voter approval according to the National Partnership for Women and Families) the US has been slow to take on this cause. That is why Working Mother is launching a four-year campaign to improve matters. Their goal is ambitious: to ensure paid parental leave is available to all U.S. workers by 2015, Their 30th anniversary year.

“This campaign is essential to the health of all working families,” says Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media. “It’s also critical to the economic health of our companies and our nation. Our ability to compete in the global marketplace depends upon the energy, intelligence and commitment our mothers and fathers bring to the workplace every day—qualities that are built on a strong family foundation.”

When the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993, it was intended as a start to parental leave.  FMLA mandates 12 weeks of job-guaranteed leave for caregivers. Many parents don’t utilize FMLA because it is unpaid. The National Partnership for Women and Families has statistics showing that 78% of employees eligible for FMLA don’t take it due to financial constraints. In addition, small companies are exempt, and employees who’ve been in a job for less than a year or work fewer than 24 hours a week are also out of luck.

Only two states, California and New Jersey, both offer paid-leave programs that cover birth, adoption, foster placement or leave to care for a sick immediate-family member. “Both states have set up what’s basically a social-insurance system, like unemployment insurance,” says Bob Drago, research director of the institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC, “and it’s 100 percent funded by employees.” The cost to employees is minimal: totaling only pennies to a few dollars a month, depending on the employee’s salary. In California, moms and dads can take up to six weeks off at 55 percent of their salary, with a maximum weekly payout of $987. In New Jersey, parents can take up to six weeks off at a max of $559 a week. In both cases, businesses don’t pay a nickel for these programs.

In fact, despite business-community concerns that family leave would hurt productivity, a recent report on the situation in California from the Center for Economic and Policy research (CEPR) in Washington, DC, found that fear unrealized. Roughly 90 percent of businesses surveyed as part of CEPR’s Leaves That Pay report said that paid family leave either had no impact or a positive impact on productivity, performance, turnover and morale. nor did it result in companies being short-staffed: only about 6 percent of employees took off each year.  In California, 60 percent of employers surveyed said they saved money because employees used state family leave instead of employer-aid sick leave, vacation time or disability benefits, according to CEPR.

More states are beginning to follow suit.  Washington State passed paid-family-leave legislation in 2007 (although it has yet to be implemented); and Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Oregon each have had similar measures under consideration in recent years. How does your state fare?

The National Partnership for Women and Families has long been pressing for Paid Family Medical Leave. They have started a petition in conjunction with Working Mother to push for paid family medical leave. While this may be an uphill battle, it is a battle that can be won. Yet, it will only be won if people who are truly concerned and affected get involved.

To that end, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is joining in this battle and asking you mamas to do the same. Women who are prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies face unprecedented financial hardship. In the 2 years that Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond has existed, we have heard stories of women losing their jobs, losing their medical benefits, inability to meet monthly financial obligations, home foreclosures and bankruptcy. Paid Parental Leave laws could alleviate much of this financial strain and enable mamas on bed rest to focus on taking care of their health and the health of their unborn babies. We are asking that you please take a moment and sign the petition. Contact your legislators and share your stories. Mamas on Bedrest, you more than many other women know the challenges and difficulties associated with not being paid while on maternity leave. Lift your voices! Help us win the battle!!

Join the discussion. Post your comments and maternity leave stories below in our comments section. The more awareness we can raise, the better!! We will also be discussing this issue on our Facebook Page and on Twitter (follow us, @mamasonbedrest)

Resources

2011 Working Mother Best Companies

Working Mother: Everyone But U.S.: The State of Maternity Leave

United States Trails High-Income Countries in Parental Leave Policies

The National Partnership for Women and Families and Working Mother Paid Family Leave Petition

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