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Issues of Maternity Leave Policies in the US

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Policy
Wordcount: 1603 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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The purpose of this memo is to discuss the issues related to the current maternity policy in USA and its effect on the lives of women in the workforce and their families. This memo highlights the research on health benefits that paid maternity leave can provide to mothers and their families as well as the overall economy and why we need steps to improve this situation.




President Bill Clinton in his first term signed The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guaranteed maternity leave to new mothers across the nation. It mandated a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave to mothers. The Family and Medical Leave Act was passed after nearly a decade of resistance by the politicians. This was an important step toward improving access to leave for new parents, providing men and women with job-protected leave for a range of caregiving purposes, including care for a newborn a sick family member. Because the law does not require that employees be paid during their leaves and does not cover companies with fewer than 50 employees, many workers have no access to any sort of maternity leaves. The United States is the only high-income country in the world that does not have compulsory paid maternity leave and only a limited portion of employers provide paid parental leave to both the parents. Currently there are only four states in the United States that do provide paid maternity leave and they are California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and most recently New York.

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Paid Parental Leave Laws Worldwide Of 186 countries examined in Heymann and McNeill’s (2013) analysis of the World Policy Analysis Centre Adult Labour Database, 96 percent provide paid leave to women during maternity leave. The United States is the only high-income country, and one of only eight countries in the world that does not make paid maternity leave mandatory. Almost all European Union (EU) members provide up to 14 weeks of job-guaranteed paid maternity leave, during which workers receive at least two-thirds of their regular income. Eighty-one countries extend paid leave to new fathers according to Heymannn and Mc Neills report. Sixty of these countries pay fathers at least 75 percent of their wages for at least part of the leave taken, yet only 37 provide fathers with the option of taking 14 weeks or more of paid time off (Heymann and McNeill 2013).



  • Paid Maternity Leave Improves Duration of Breastfeeding. Breast feeding has many health benefits to both mothers and infants.  Children who are breastfeed in their earlier months have a less chance of getting diseases like Asthma and diarrhea.
  • Benefits to the economy. Many studies have shown that paid leaves improve the overall morale of employees and they are more inclined to return to work after childbirth. Companies with paid leaves have a higher rate of employee retention which helps decreases employee costs to firms.


  • Family Leave and Child Health. As many studies have proven, mandating paid maternity leave leads to a better quality of early childhood outcomes. Mothers with paid leave have better bonding with their child which leads to better brain development and are also better able to care for children with special health care needs







Despite many attempts by different government parties, the United States remains without a federal paid family leave policy. The United States must establish a national, legislatively mandated paid maternity leave policy program which includes some of these changes;

Strategy 1: Expand outreach and Awareness. Public awareness of paid maternal and paternal leave is very limited among workers these days. According to an independent survey conducted in employees more than half of them did not know the program existed. The government should develop an awareness campaign especially targeting low-income, Latino, and immigrant workers, and also work with various community groups to help spread the word about the existence of current paid family leave.


Strategic 2: Increase the level of wage replacement provided
by the paid maternal/paternal program from its current 55 percent
of weekly earnings to two-thirds (66.7 percent) of weekly earnings to make taking family leave affordable to more workers.


Strategy 3: Extend Job-protected paid leave of 12 weeks per year for full-time employees; so that all workers who need a family leave will have job security.

Strategy 4: Extend the paid family leave program to cover all public employees including low-quality jobs.

Strategy 5: Part-time employees are eligible if they worked a minimum of 20 hours per week in the previous 6 months.


  • Heymann, J., Raub, A., & Earle, A. (2011). Creating and using new data sources to analyze the relationship between social policy and global health: the case of maternal leave. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150137/

         Brinlee,M.,(2018). Which States Have Paid Family Leave? New York Rang In 2018 With Big Changes. (Bustle) https://www.bustle.com/p/which-states-have-paid-family-leave-new-york-rang-in-2018-with-big-changes-7744450

Research Documents from NYU Libraries.



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