By: Daria Heimer, human resources management professional and working mother advocate
Career On -Ramps, Off- Ramps, Forced Mommy Dead Ends and Why America needs MomSource!
In comparison to the rest of the developed world, it is jolting how far behind the U.S. has fallen in terms of maternity leave and enabling working mothers to sustain a more flexible work/life balance even among progressive and forward thinking employers. For many women with children, it seems, the choice regarding leaving the workforce includes weighing a complexity benefits and drawbacks. The challenge is insurmountable
in part because there is a deficiency of programs and policies in the United States to support women in their prime career and childbearing years. With so much discourse pertaining to American women “having it all,” it seems as if the government and the large majority of employers are floundering behind in terms of helping to support women remaining in the workplace after they have given birth or adopted a child:
- The 12 weeks provided through the Federal Maternity Leave Act ( FMLA) is not sufficient
- Contrastly, in Europe policies have continued to develop and evolve in recent years offering greater flexibility and options such as subsidized child care, generous parental leaves and taxation of individuals instead of families, which encourages women’s employment
- As recently as 1990, the United States had one of the top employment rates in the world for women, but it has now dropped significantly behind many European countries
- Numerous countries such as Switzerland, Australia, Germany Canada, Japan and France have surpassed the U.S. out of the top ranking position for women’s participation in the work force during their prime child-bearing years.
- Here is a shocking fact (courtesy of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization) there are only two countries in the world that don’t have some form of legally protected, partially paid time off for working women who’ve just had a baby: Papua New Guinea and the U.S.
- In the U.K. women receive 52 weeks of maternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child, 39 of which are paid. Protection of part-time workers and other policies aimed at keeping women employed
- In France, women are paid at their full salary for 16 weeks, and are eligible to receive both more time and money from the government for Baby Number Two and beyond.
- In Spain, new moms are paid at their full salary 16 weeks after giving birth. The only exception being that they need to be Spanish citizens who have contributed to social security for at least 180 days in the seven years prior to having a baby.
- Denmark has one of the best maternity/paternity leaves in the world: Pregnant women can take leave for four weeks before the birth, and they are obliged to be on leave for the first two weeks after the birth. After the birth, the mother is entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave. The father is entitled to 2 weeks of paternity leave within the first 14 weeks after the birth of the child. Altogether parents are entitled to 52 weeks paid maternity leave.
- Italy provides women with 20 weeks of paid leave at 80 percent of their salary. And, as an Italian citizen, both mom and dad are able to take up to six months of the year off of work for the first 8 years of a child’s life while still receiving 30 percent of their daily salary.
- Canada offers women the option of taking off a full year off of work after the birth of a child with guaranteed work security. Women receive about 55 percent of their salaries for 15 to 17 weeks depending on where they live.
- In Russia, new moms receive 20 weeks of paid leave at 100 percent of their salary and receive half before the baby comes and half post-baby. Additionally they have a choice to extend leave to up to 18 months after the birth, at 40 percent of their salary.
- Sweden offers 16 months of paid maternity leave with each child, and the entire first year of leave is at 80 percent of regular salary. An added bonus of having the option to space out parental leave throughout the years until a child turns 8 is offered.
- Nearly a third of the relative decline in women’s labor-force participation in the United States, compared with European countries, can be explained by Europe’s expansion of policies like paid parental leave, part-time work and child care and the lack of those policies in the United States
Other countries are miles above us when it comes to understanding the importance of being a mother and a working woman. Most competitive employers have a myriad of policies and procedures that effectuate the dedication to inclusiveness and workplace diversity- why not consider offering families the ability to have a balanced work/life? Is it too much to hope that organizations will trend towards the push to diversify policies pertaining to flexible work arrangements and offer greater protection for pregnant and working mothers as they address the changing demographics and needs of an increasingly multigenerational workforce? Some companies do a great job of ensuring women have the time needed to bond with their child, however as a country we desperately need to educate companies that working mothers are an asset to the workforce. There is still a stigma on women who take time off to care for their children – the US excels at and can take pride and so many other things that make our country forward thinking, innovative and marvelous, why not this? By companies integrating balanced work/life opportunities into the retention agenda, it will enhance the ability to remain competitive, show up on the bottom line and help to create and sustain a positive working environment that is committed to supporting employees holistically.
Young, H. (2015 January 20). How America is Failing Working Moms. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hilary-young/how-america-is-failing-mo_b_6496462.html
Miller, C., & Alderman, L. (2014 December 12). Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs. (The New York Times). Retrieved from http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/14/upshot/us-employment-women-not-working.html?referrer=&_r=2