The United States is the only rich country in the world that does not have paid maternity or paternity leave. “In this country, one in four women returns to work two weeks after having a baby because they have no other option and need the money. But at the same time, most child care centers cannot take care of babies under six weeks for insurance reasons ”, explains Ruth Martin, vice president of the NGO Moms Rising.
The activist explains that in the United States it is normal for pregnant women and their partners to use their vacation days to recover after childbirth and take care of their newborn. “Members of our organization have told us that they did not go to their parents’ deathbed because they could not ask for days at work because they were pregnant and they knew they would need time when the baby was born,” says Martin, who joined the cause more than a decade ago. This situation can be extrapolated to any type of loss.RELATED
The promise of paid layoffs has been in the programs of Democratic presidential candidates for decades. These latest elections were no exception: Joe Biden is fighting to include licenses in his billionaire social spending plan dubbed Build Back Better.
One of the first versions of the plan, when it involved investing 3.5 billion dollars, included the proposal for a 12-week withdrawal, but the Senate failed to pass the measure and the White House had to rethink a project to get support of all Democratic senators. The new version – which has already been approved by the House of Representatives, despite Republican opposition – costs half and only includes four weeks of family leave.
Worldwide, paid maternity leave lasts an average of 29 weeks, and paternity leave 16 weeks. Besides the US, the only other countries without paid national maternity leave are the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
For mothers, recovery from childbirth typically takes six to eight weeks, and maternal health improves when the couple is at home as well. Research shows that babies continue to benefit from being at home with a parent during the first semester, as bonding increases immunization and breastfeeding rates and decreases hospitalizations for infectious diseases. Most families in the US follow the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects employment and health coverage for up to 12 weeks after childbirth, but does not oblige companies to offer any type of salary during this period. .
Four weeks would also be significantly less than the 12 weeks of paid family leave enjoyed by national officials in the US, and less than the leave that has been approved in nine of the 51 states and the District of Columbia. “It is not enough time, but it is a significant start that will help many families,” Martin emphasizes.
Within the limitation of the measure itself, the text is flexible, since it not only considers paid leave for maternity, paternity, health and care of a relative, but also for care of in-laws, partners or people who are ” equivalents “to the family.
More than half of the people who take unpaid leave in the United States do so for health problems. The United States is one of 11 countries that do not offer paid leave for health problems. Of the countries that do, 132 offer three or more months, and 62 offer one year or more if needed. Recovering from a heart attack can take several months, and cancer treatment often lasts half a year or more.
Although they are not required, large US companies often offer paid maternity, paternity and other leave. “We see this trend from very wealthy companies, like Facebook or Google. But most of the people who work for companies in the US work for small companies and these cannot afford to pay paid family medical leave, even if they really want to ”, emphasizes the expert. Only 23% of American workers have access to paid family leave.
For Martin, the obstacle is found among Republicans at the federal level, since these types of losses have been passed in a bipartisan way in some states and, in addition, they have the support of the voters of both parties.
Build Back Better will not have the endorsement of Republicans in the Senate, which is why it is crucial that all Democrats vote in favor. Eyes are on centrist West Virginia and Arizona senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who could hinder and even change the content or price of the budget, bringing the plan back to where it started. Despite not being against offering paid family leave, Manchin has indicated that the measure should be bipartisan, something impossible at this time. For now the plan is not even expected to pass in the Senate in the remainder of the year.