The world contains over 180 countries that are officially recognized by the United Nations. Out of all these, only three do not offer paid maternity leave for mothers or fathers of newborns.What makes this fact even more remarkable is that the United States is the only developed country included in the list of these three countries that do not have an established paid maternity leave program! Papau New Guinea and Oman, two of the poorest nations in the world, are the others.
Further blighting America’s reputation as a family-oriented proponent of equal rights for all is that new mothers living in the U.S. receive fewer weeks of unpaid maternity leave than any Western country. Although federal law mandates employers offer new mothers up to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, what new mother can afford to take that much time off without a paycheck?
Proposed by Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLaura (D), the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013 is meant to establish a maternity leave program offering U.S. workers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave or 12 weeks of paid “family leave” time due to serious illness, necessary care for family member or other emergency. On December 12, 2013, the bill was introduced to the House Committee on Ways and Means. And there it still sits, one year later.
Why? Because it needs to pass the House before it reaches the Senate. However, with the current Republican-controlled House held hostage by right-wing extremists who repeatedly espouse the virtues of less government while enjoying free medical insurance provided by the government, the bill stands little chance of passing.
When confronted with questions about why they refuse to take action on the act, House members inevitably point to the existence of the current Family and Medical Leave Act that mandates eligible employers allow new mothers to take job-protected, unpaid leave for up to but not more than 12 weeks. Unfortunately only about 30 percent of U.S. employers are eligible, i.e., mandated to give unpaid maternity leave.
New mothers must work for a company with 50 or more employees and have at least one year’s seniority with their employer. In addition, she must have worked 1250 hours for her employer in the past 12 months before they have to give her unpaid maternity leave.
The lawmakers of one particular U.S. party work hard to maintain America’s reputation as being one of the most hypocritical, developed nations in the world. Their disparagement of working women who wish to earn their own living while raising children is no more obvious than when examining the status of the U.S. concerning paid maternity leave as compared to other developed nations. Let’s look at how this one group of remarkably, backward-thinking lawmakers measure up to lawmakers in several countries:
Conservative lawmakers and the people they represent have always had a difficult time coping with change, especially if the change mirrors a system or ideology used by a social democratic European country. Just like people during the early Cold War years quaked in their shoes at the mention of Communism and instinctively hated anyone who wasn’t a flag-waving, middle-class Caucasian, today’s conservatives become self-righteously enraged when confronted with the fact that socialist European countries are consistently rated as the best places to live on Earth.
U.S. companies who refuse to provide new mothers with paid maternity leave are also to blame for the exaggerated retardation of U.S. policies towards the family as compared to the sensible and humane attitude of other countries toward new parents. With hundreds of psychological and sociological studies available that indicate the long-term health benefits of allowing new mothers to bond with their babies as long as possible, the delay in passing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013 seems like an inferred yet sustained assault on a woman’s right to work outside the home, raise children and avoid the kind of drudgery their grandmothers experienced as barefoot, pregnant kitchen dwellers.