- While there is ongoing optimism and some good news about the state of parental leave in the U.S., being one of the world's most advanced economies hasn't helped boost American policies for expectant mothers compared to the rest of the world, according to the Washington Post.
- The Post reports that not only is the U.S. the only "highly competitive country" where mothers are not guaranteed paid leave, even relatively poorer countries such as Cuba and Mongolia offer new mothers paid leave.
- Also, the Post article outlines that funding maternity leave programs varies, as some countries require that employers finance the leave while other use public funds. The International Labor Organization, a U.N.-affiliated agency, also reports that low-income residents or those who work in the informal sector increasingly get maternity cash benefits from their governments.
Experts believe that rather than a drain on the economy, providing paid maternity leave can actually boost economic growth. Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, told the Post that European countries view paid leave for mothers as an economic investment.
While there is some positive movement in expanding leave policies to employees of all genders, that doesn't help the many American women who feel forced to choose between working and raising a family — a situation that "undermines their prospects of equal opportunity at work" and, experts say, disproportionately affects women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The Post cites a 2012 Labor Dept. study that found 23% of women polled who left work to care for an infant took less than two weeks off, increasing health risks for both mothers and children.
HR leaders at many U.S. employers have recognized the issue and are trying to expand parental leave benefit programs to improve their recruitment brands and keep top talent of all genders. However, until guidance from the federal government comes on the topic, parental leave policies will likely remain fairly patchwork and dependent on state or city policy as well as private company choice.