Of all industrial nations, the United States is one of the very few who guarantees zero weeks of paid-leave from work after giving birth to a child (that is, maternity leave and paternity leave). It is one of four countries. Whereas other countries, for example Japan providing 14 weeks of paid job-protected leave, the United States is behind when it comes to providing support and job security for families and their newborns. While not providing a check, the US does guarantee 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. However, this leave, guaranteed by the Family and Medical Act of 1993, is only available for parents who work in companies with 50 or more employers and who have been working with the company for at least 12 months beforehand. In California, the Family Temporary Disability Insurance program provides benefits of approximately 55% of earnings, but there are weekly maximums.
But is has access to parental-leave benefits? According to the Family and Medical Leave 2012 Survey, slightly over one-third of all workers in the United States work in places that provide some sort of maternity leave. Barbara Gault, Ph.D., Vice President and Executive Director at IWPR (Institute of Women’s Policy Research), claims that low-wage families have less access to paid-leave and the effect may be detrimental to current and future generations.
One reason why wealthier employees may receive these benefits is that their work sector is able to pay for such services, given that they provide higher salaries. Other differences in work places allowing parental leave can be attributed to education levels of employees and, as described, income.
As for lower-income families, not only is obtaining parental leave difficult. Their work places may only offer unpaid leave, if that. What this means for these families is many might opt for working instead, as it would be fiscally beneficial, and imperative, to work as opposed to caring for children. This contrasts the lives of those who can take leave, as it benefits them to receive paid-leave and spend time providing childcare. When it comes to protecting families, policy makers should heavily consider who is able to receive benefits. Parental leave is something that benefits not only parents, but children.