On a trans-global scale, parental leave for newborns and adoptees works. In 1993, the American Federal Government passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law; in 2012, only about half of American workers enjoy coverage under this act. In the United States, the topic of parental leave and the appropriate legislation to establish far-reaching parental leave is still under discussion. There are a number of arguments for and against maternal and paternal leave for parents of newborns and adoptees currently under consideration in America. Many of these theories have strong arguments; however, in practice parental leave works. The appropriate topic regarding parental leave is how, not should, leave be implemented for parents of infants and adoptees.
“Only two U.S. states -- California and New Jersey -- have public paid leave insurance programs.” . In the other 48 states there is no public parental leave policy; this includes maternal leave for childbirth. Some arguments against Maternal Leave are:
It Costs More Money; In addition to the immediate costs related to holding a job open for a mother on a twelve week, unpaid maternal leave there are other expenses involved in maternal care that are also weighed when considering the financial aspects of offering any maternal leave.
Hiring Practices; Having a maternity leave for childbirth forces the Human Resource department to add the likelihood that a younger woman would collect on this benefit to the smaller impact on payroll that a younger woman has when they are considering different candidates for a position. and,
Discrimination; A company could find itself inadvertently discriminating against women of childbearing age because of these potential additional costs related to granting unpaid Maternal Leave. However, many companies find that “Putting the costs side by side, including paid maternity leave, may show that the employment cost is equal.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parents of newborns and newly adopted children along with provisions that enable family members help one another in the event of medical problems. Unfortunately, due to constraints provided in the law only about half of American employees are able to take advantage of the provisions. A portion of these people includes employees who may not be able to afford unpaid leave. In a study done for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research it is estimated that in America today only about 10% of the population has a paid family leave program available to them through their place of employment. .
A combination of the FMLA, the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides for 12 workweeks of unpaid leave under the following conditions:
The birth of a child and to care for a newborn child;
The placement of a child with the employee through adoption or foster care, and to care for the child;
Because a serious health condition makes the employee unable to perform one or more of the essential functions of his or her job. .
Unfortunately, only private employers with 50 or more employees are “covered concurrently by the FMLA, the ADA and Title VII.” . Additionally, although these provisions extend to both fathers and mothers, the issue of parental leave is still largely seen as a woman’s concern. .
Because the United States views parental leave as primarily a ‘women’s issue’ it has a subtle but far-reaching effect on how women are compensated in the workforce. When a human resource department is weighing the potential impact of a young woman taking advantage of unpaid maternity leave it considers the “smaller impact on payroll” that a young woman would makes. The United States census determined that between 2002 and 2003 women only made 75.5 cents for every dollar that men earned; and that this gender gap was a growing problem. Clearly, the consideration that maternity leave is viewed as an age and gender related expense contributes to this growing wage discrimination. . If on the other hand, parental leave was a right extended to, and used by both parents this would help alleviate the ongoing wage discrimination women have consistently suffered as part of the American work force.
In other countries, the benefits of parental leave are proven effective and the only debate left is the appropriate length and conditions of this leave. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal reported that Sweden is looking towards extending Paternal Leave to require “dads to stay home a third month.” . Sweden’s generous parental leave policy has already resulted in a birthrate and an unusually high number of women in the workforce. These elements combine to make Swedish social insurance more sustainable and raise the Swedish per capita GDP.
Canada has established a paid Maternity-Parental Leave Period that provides paid Maternity Leave to a mother for pregnancy, delivery and newborn care and Parental Benefits that provide for care of a child once he or she is born. These benefits are clearly set forth in the countries employment code and give definitive protection to the employer as well. .
On 23 February, 2011 Reuters reported that “The United States is decades behind the rest of the world in parental leave policy, a Human Rights Watch report said on Wednesday.” . This report studied parental leave in 190 countries. They found that paid leave was guaranteed by 178 countries, nine were unclear about their policies and only three Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States offered no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave. . In another article published via the Associated Press the United States policy is referred to as “an embarrassment” and was cited as contributing to long range losses that far exceed the immediate cost of parental leave. . That article also quoted Eileen Appelbaum of the Center for Economic and Policy Research as concluding from a survey of 235 California businesses that a “vast majority” thought the leave had a positive or neutral effect. Ellen Bravo of the Family Values at Work Consortium attributed the weak American policies to the clout of corporate lobbyists and a weak labor movement. She was quoted as lamenting, “Family values often end at the workplace door.”.
When it comes to Human Rights issues, it is only common sense to consider seriously bringing American employment policy into congruence with the policies that other civilized nations established decades ago was just sound fiscal policy. Janet Walsh, deputy women's rights director of Human Rights Watch summed up the state of affairs regarding parent leave in the United States by saying "Around the world, policymakers understand that helping workers meet their work and family obligations is good public policyIt's time for the U.S. to get on board with this trend.". It is hard to maintain a viable argument against Ms. Walsh’s sound advice.
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