Trivia - what’s common with the United States and countries like Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland(?!) Out of 173 countries, only these four lacks paid leave, and that's a report from 2007!
And this is in spite of the fact that the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1952 calling for a minimum 14 weeks of paid maternity leave for all employed women. And close to a hundred countries follow it.
The U.S. federal Family and Medical Leave Act -- passed in 1993 -- provides eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off during the first year of birth. Only three states - California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, have enacted paid family leave legislation in the country.
And now a new study shows that the number of women in the United States who take maternity leave has remained the same for the past 20 years. Approximately 273,000 women opted for maternity leave on average every month between 1994 and 2015 in the United States. No change at all during all that time and fewer than half of the women were paid for it.
Only 47.5 percent of women were compensated in 2015. This number is increasing, but only by a measly 0.26 percentage per year. At this rate, it would take another ten years before 50 percent or half of the women in the US benefit.
But wait, the number of men taking paternity leave has tripled over the last two decades! Of course, it was a minuscule figure, to begin with. It was 22,000 per month in 2015 compared to about 5,800 In 1994.
Many studies have shown the positive health benefits of allowing mothers to spend time with their newborns. Not taking time off after giving birth can also lead to postpartum depression, a condition that half the women are prone to.
This leads to other health problems like anxiety, fatigue, headaches, body pain, and relationship issues with their spouse and other loved ones. Heading back to work too early can also hinder a woman’s breastfeeding ability.
Money is a huge factor for woman opting to take maternity leave. It can be very expensive in the United States to lose pay for 1-3 months especially after a child is born. Even in states with paid leave legislation, some are unable to utilize the full leave period, as it does not completely compensate for the salary. Women also fear falling behind at work or losing their positions if they take maternity leave.
It’s high time our policy makers realized the importance of giving a woman the chance to heal after delivery. It’s a strenuous process – both physically and emotionally.