Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | May 7, 2010

Mothers’ Day: Why We Need Maternity Leave Policy in The US

 It was recently brought to my attention – just in time for Mother’s Day – that the United States, which some right wingers insist in calling ‘the greatest country in the world – ranks as low as 29th in this year’s index of best countries in which to be a mother – one of the few developed nations in the planet to be in the lower twenties. In our company are debt-ridden Greece and a handful of Eastern European countries who are still recovering from civil wars and political turmoil. 

The factors that led to this study are various, including access to birth control (why a prescription???) ,maternal death and others, but the one that shocks the most is the lack of a national policy of parental (also known as maternity) leave. Among industrialized nations, only The US and Australia do not provide for the welfare of new mothers. At least in Australia, women get to have their jobs protected up to a year, while here it depends solely on company policy (traditionally parents get 12 unpaid weeks according to the 1994 Family and Medical Leave Act, but most moms go back to work just 6 weeks after giving birth). 

Some states – like New York – have some kind of policy, but whatever they offer still dwarfs when compared to countries like France, Canada and yes, even Brazil, who all have laws that require employers to pay (with the advantage of being able to deduct from their taxes) for up to fourteen weeks of maternity leave – plus job protection. 

I think that it is inadmissible that in this day and age when there are so many working moms, legislators have not come up with some kind of system that will allow mothers to recover from childbirth while having the chance to properly bond with their children. 

Sure, rich moms like the ones portrayed on movies like The Nanny Diaries have all the care they need thanks to their fortunes, but what about the struggling female worker who depends on strangers at day care centers? Not everyone (specially in big towns like New York) have an extended family structure to help them in time of need. 

Unfortunately we cannot allow private businesses to have so much power over their non-union (a growing tendency in the United States) employees. They have too much leeway already by dictating which holidays they will observe or how much vacation time they will provide. Such things are not perks or privileges, but undeniable rights. 

Want to call me a socialist? Fine. But before you pass judgement on me, study the policies of capitalist nations such as Germany, Great Britain and Japan. We need laws that protect employees, not business owners, and maternity leave (where are you, feminists?) should be on top of that list.

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