Change · Postpartum

Postpartum Care Series: Parental Leave

I’d like to start a series of posts about postpartum care. Because I’m pretty sure people will not stop having babies anytime soon, these topics are important to everyone since we are all affected even if you aren’t a parent. We continue the march toward being kind humans to one another and the postpartum time is one of those magic moments to shower parents with kindness, support and education in celebration of their new baby. Why not do what we can to give each other a strong start? 

Parental Leave: alright, this is a big topic! Luckily, it’s coming back into focus so that maybe change is coming soon. Let’s just start with a global perspective – this is a map of global leave policies:

map of world maternity leave policies

Well that’s a terrifying map. It’s so lonely being in the red. So women in Russia are getting +52 weeks paid maternity leave and we are getting … nothing. Luckily, some states have taken matters into their own hands though.

NP_Expecting Better 2014 Map

Notice that this is a map of laws that support new parents, not just maternity leave. There’s still a whole lot of states with an F grade, or not much better. California is doing alright, for USA standards. Along with New Jersey and Rhode Island, California has implemented a Paid Family Leave program that not only gives workers who pay into the state disabilities insurance 6 weeks of paid leave for a new baby (adopted and foster babies too), but also to care for seriously ill family members and domestic partners. California has run this program since 2004! Initially many in the business lobbies were concerned that this program would end up costing businesses, causing harm. The program is old enough now that we know some important facts:

We obtain robust evidence that the California program doubled the overall use of maternity leave, increasing it from an average of three to six weeks for new mothers – with some evidence of particularly large growth for less advantaged groups. We also provide evidence that PFL increased the usual weekly work hours of employed mothers of one-to-three year-old children by 10 to 17% and that their wage incomes may have risen by a similar amount.

In addition, paid family leave increased the chances that a mother would return to work after having a baby, and in New Jersey, these mothers were 40% less likely to receive public aid or food stamps. But what about the effect on businesses? A report from California has showed that 89-99% of employers said the paid family leave has had no effect or a positive effect on productivity, profitability, turnover and morale.

This is all starting to sound like a solid argument to start giving employees some paid parental and family leave! Unfortunately, there are some families who are falling through the cracks, and who arguably need the help the most. Caroline Fredrickson wrote a book entitled, Under the Bus: How Working Women are Being Run Over. She points out that part-time, employees of small businesses and immigrant workers are usually not eligible for paid leave and job security.

[I]n almost 9 percent of cases where [families] go under the poverty line, the precipitating factor was the birth of a child and nearly 25 percent of these families succumb to poverty in thirty days when they are dependent on the earnings of a single mother.

Here are some examples of the impact of poverty on society.

We need to keep talking about this, moving forward and making change (and watching this video). At the first White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama said he is hoping to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and give financial support to states who implement programs like those in CA, NJ and RI. Let’s hope something good comes of this. There will be work to be done to get the word out to people who could use the financial support the most, and for employees to know their rights and what they are entitled to.

Then there are awesome stories like this one from Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, and CEO, Josh Bayliss – new parents may take up to one year fully paid leave. Whoa.

And just because I ran across this today, #Distractinglysexy

One thought on “Postpartum Care Series: Parental Leave

Comments are closed.