Happy Mother’s Day—Now Get Back to Work
by James Parks
This Mother’s Day, we’d like to wish every mother a Happy Mother’s Day. Today is the day we show how much we appreciate the innumerable contributions that mothers have made to our lives and our country in a big way. This is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, florists and the phone companies.
But here’s something lawmakers and corporate bosses can give moms they can really use—time off from work with pay so they can spend time with their children, whether they are newborns or are just suffering from childhood ailments.
The United States doesn’t make it easy for mothers to raise their children. First off, if a mother works, she likely is going to get paid less than a man in the same job—about 77 cents for every $1 a man makes to be exact. And paid time off after a child is born is available in many western nations—but not here. In the United Kingdom, for example, a new mother can take a year off from work and be paid for about nine months. In Norway, she can take 26 weeks and about 20 weeks of that is paid.
In a selection of 19 countries with comparable per capita income, the Economic Policy Institute found the United States provides the fewest maternity leave benefits in both length of leave and paid time off. That doesn’t include any disability insurance for which mom may qualify.
The U.S. federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been the law for 15 years, gives eligible parents 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a new child. Aside from being unpaid, the leave is limited to workplaces of more than 50 employees, which excludes about 48 million workers. About two-thirds of the women who responded to the 2006 AFL-CIO Ask a Working Woman survey said they don’t have paid family leave benefits.
In fact, as EPI points out, the United States falls two weeks short of the International Labor Organization’s minimum standard of at least 14 weeks general leave. Several studies have shown policies that guarantee adequate leave are increasingly valuable not only for working families, but also for employers, who benefit from the retention of skilled personnel in the workplace and improved employee morale.
If you are a working woman, you can voice your concerns about maternity leave, paid leave and other issues by taking the AFL-CIO and Working America’s just-launched online 2008 Ask a Working Woman survey. Click here to take the survey and here to share it with other working women. Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), told a congressional committee last month there are millions of workers eligible to use FMLA but don’t because they can’t afford to take unpaid time off, especially low-wage workers. Said Ness:
Without some form of wage replacement, the FMLA’s promise of job-protected leave is a chimera for too many women and men. In fact, 78 percent of employees who qualified for FMLA leave and needed to take the leave did not because they could not afford to go without a paycheck.
Earlier this month, New Jersey mothers celebrated as that state became the third in the country to pass legislation that would provide at least some degree of paid family leave, joining California and Washington. Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law the state’s Paid Family Leave legislation, which provides up to six weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds salary (to a maximum of $524 a week). The measure will be financed by employee payroll deductions that will cost each worker in New Jersey a maximum of 64 cents a week, or $33 a year.
The new Democratic majority in the House is moving to address the nation’s need for paid family leave. Introduced in April, the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2008 (H.R. 5873) would provide paid leave to care for a new child and cover workplaces with fewer than 50 employees. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act (S. 910 and H.R. 1542) that would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide workers with seven paid sick leave days a year to take care of themselves or a family member.
Tags: Family Medical Leave Act , Motherhood , Equal Pay , Economic Policy Institute , Jon Corzine , National Partnership For , New Jersey , Maternity Leave , International Labor Organ , Edward Kennedy
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.