You can take off 12 weeks of work when you give birth to your child. But hey, here’s the catch, we just won’t pay you for that time off. Alright, cool, see you in a couple weeks.
As someone who is about to enter the workforce in the spring with lofty career goals for myself, no intention of marriage or kids for a solid 7-10 years — the thought of this still scares me. When I am hitting a peak time in my career journey but also a time where I would like to embrace motherhood I do not want to feel as if I need to choose, or feel as if I am not financially sturdy enough to take off work for 3 months but at the same time go back to work as soon as possible and somehow afford childcare for those early newborn stages.
More than 120 nations provide paid maternity leave. But not the United States? This simply puzzles me. So let’s dive into the history of paid maternity leave.
Paid maternity leave started in Europe. Their thought process went something like “these universal programs sowed the seeds for a strong future workforce and an educated, healthy society”. But when it was introduced in America, it was very scrutinized. It was seen as a way for people to take advantage of government funds and a fear “that providing universal paid parental leave could encourage the “wrong” families to reproduce” which was mainly directed towards African-American women during this time.
While nowadays more and more companies in the United States offer some sort of partial salary for maternity leave, this is typically for white collar workers. A report from 2020 found that only 8% of the bottom quartile of lowest wage earners had access to paid maternity leave which are jobs held by mostly minorities.
So why isn’t anything being done? Do the American people not support paid maternity leave?
Seven states have already enacted their own legislation where state payroll taxes pay for paid maternity leave statewide, with three more states on the way there. It also should be noted that federal workers do receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. On top of that 82% of Americans indeed support paid maternity leave, but only 47% of Americans think it should be federally funded.
So will Americans ever receive paid maternity leave? Biden proposed 12 weeks of paid maternity leave funded by increasing the federal income tax rate for the top 1 percent of American income earners from 37 percent to 39.6 percent, increasing capital gains and dividend tax rates for those who earn more than $1 million a year, and eliminating certain exceptions to the estate tax. This plan has now been altered to only cover 4 weeks of paid leave to cut costs by $400 billion but still has not gone through.
Let’s hope for change! (Preferably in the next 7-10 years please)