When it comes to maternity leave in America, women often get the short end of the stick. For a majority of the companies, women are the bread-and-butter, yet they can’t even spend enough time with their newborn. According to Foothold America, “The Family and Medical Leave Act requires that US employers (with 50 or more employees) to allow mothers to take time off (up to 12 weeks) for the purpose of pregnancy or child rearing while holding a worker’s job and health insurance in place. There is no requirement to provide pay.” This means that most women’s jobs won’t give them pay for the time they miss because they brought a life into the world. Some companies do offer maternity leave, but the percentage is only at 12%. Isn’t starting a family a part of the American Dream? Women need time to heal and be with their child for the first couple of months.
Only three states offer paid maternity leave, which are California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a universal paid family leave in Washington D.C will take effect on July 1, 2020. That would mean only four states out of 50 see that parents need to be at home and also still need to be compensated for the time missed so they can take care of their bills. Some have argued that 12 weeks of maternity leave is not enough, and the ideal time should be closer to six months. Babies are new to this world, which means the eating and sleeping patterns will vary—and anyone who has had a child knows how tough it is to keep a baby on a sleeping schedule. New moms have to adjust to this lifestyle, and it’s going to take longer than 12 weeks to adjust and be ready to come back to work. Women’s bodies heal at different rates, especially new moms who have undergone a C-section. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, half of the year is exclusive to breastfeeding alone.
So, what are other countries' policies on maternity leave? They are far better than the United States. In Denmark, the mother has up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The employer either pays for the full salary during part of the leave or the authority Udbetaling Danmark pays for it. Finland gives 4.2 months of maternity leave, while the United Kingdom maternity leave is up to 52 weeks, and mothers are paid the first six weeks and the last 33 weeks. In Japan, the government covers six weeks prior to the birth and up to eight weeks after birth, and mothers are exempt from paying health and pension insurance. In France, maternity leave is up to 16 weeks with maternity pay paid out every 14 days by the CPAM.
Those are just some of the countries that see that maternity leave and health is not only important for the child but also for the mother. Women should not have to consistently fight for the right to be at home with their newborn. It feels as though employers expect mothers to heal like Wolverine and be prepared to jump back into work at full force. If these countries can see how important the health of the mother is and letting the mother keep her job while being compensated, then the United States should take note as well.
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Hello, my name is Alexis Williamson (soon-to-be Audrey). I am a young, aspiring screenwriter from the south side of Chicago, IL. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and decided a year ago to major in screenwriting so I can write movies! I have other interests in music, fashion, and painting. I love meeting people from all walks of life, cooking, and having intellectual conversations. I am a tea lover and a cat mom!