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Defending Paid Parental Leave

One of the side effects of the bad economy is that good ideas that sound expensive begin getting ignored. Take paid parental leave. Making sure that parents can afford to take time off to have a baby is a good idea on a number of fronts. It protects families from the choice of financial calamity or time with a newborn. It helps employers retain and recruit staff. It appears to improve child health. And -- everywhere else in the world -- it is pretty much standard.

The idea has begun to get some traction with policymakers, but -- sadly -- the bum economy has taken the issue off of the front burner. At least until last month.

That was when Newsweek published a takedown of the whole paid-leave concept -- a counter to an earlier argument for paid leave. The article makes a number of borderline-wild claims to undercut the idea that parental leave is a good idea. The first is that paid parental leave will destroy the market for women of childbearing age, which would make sense if the specter of lawsuits over pregnancy-related discrimination didn't hover over every HR manager and which assumes that it's only the women that will be taking the leave. The second argument is that if you incentivize women to leave the workforce, even for a bit, they'll never come back. As evidence, author Nita Ghei points to two examples out of Europe that show leaves of 20 weeks or longer tend to have a negative effect on women's re-entry into the paid workplace.

In a country where some (but not all) employees are guaranteed only 12 weeks off, period, it seems absurd to wonder aloud if 5 months (or more!) of paid leave will rend the social fabric of the United States. For starters, even the most ardent supporters of the idea are pushing for a paltry amount of support for a minimal period of time (at least by international standards). But the impact of that change would be monumental.

I've told the story before: paid leave changed my life for the better. Yes, it led to me taking some extra time out of the workforce, but I'm a better father and a better employee for it today. I can't wait to live in a country in which everyone gets that chance. I'm always curious: how did paid leave (or the lack thereof) changed your approach to those first months of parenthood?

By Brian Reid |  September 2, 2009; 7:45 AM ET  | Category:  Child Care , Policy
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Comments


Just as about 75% of the women who worked at the bank she worked at, my wife took advantage of the 3 months paid leave, and then quit for good. It was wonderful. For us. Not for them.

Posted by: 06902 | September 2, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

@060902: Raising a couple of questions ... why didn't any guys take the leave there? And would the rate of turnover been even worse if the leave wasn't paid?

Posted by: rebeldad | September 2, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I think paid maternity and paternity leave sound good if they're "free" but of course they aren't. I'm not convinced that employers benefit from having a blanket maternity leave policy for all employees. Has anyone seen any data on the retention rate of (for instance) college educated women who leave the workplace for 6 weeks, 6 months, one-year and three years? Would a company offer the same benefit to top-level managers, accountants and receptionists? How many U.S. companies offer paid leave voluntarily because they think it is good for there business (or image)?

I took 6 weeks unpaid leave and my wife took unpaid leave with no benefits for a year, then quit completely. Kids have been a money-losing proposition for us from the beginning.

Posted by: KS100H | September 2, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

In today's economy I think this is very burdensome on employers. Also, if your job can do without you for 12+ weeks, it can do without you for good.

Posted by: Catwhowalked | September 2, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Brian: it sounds good in theory. It really does. But see - that's where 'benefits' allows companies to hire and keep the best and the brightest. Those that offer better benefits, get better employees.
I do not want the government mandating companies to do ANY more than they are doing (and I'd like the govt to repeal some of the laws).
I don't own my own business (well, sort of - we have a side business, and that's a pain sometimes) - but I know people who do, and they just want to be left alone to run the business. They are tired of government passing new laws every day to make it harder to run the business.
Yes, all this would be nice, but we already have a 9 trillion dollar debt. And it's not going to get better any time soon. How do you suppose we pay for it?
NO other country in the world who you talk about is like us. They have homogeneous people, and aren't like us. We have vastly different cultures and people, vastly different geography, we are large, etc. We come together with an ideal - no other country out there does.
As with many things, it's nice in theory. However, someone has to pay the bills (I tell that to my husband all the time - at least one of us has to work, sorry honey...). You seem to think there's some infinite pot of money out there to pay for this. How about wages will decrease? How about taxes will increase? Are you willing to live with that? I'm not.

I was laid off in my 8th month of pregnancy with number one. Needless to say (even though I was getting a ton of phone calls) I couldn't really go back to work (no - they wouldn't hire me cause I couldn't even get to the interviews! They wanted me to fly to places, but well, the airlines wouldn't let me fly and the idea of moving was, well, not in the picture). I was home for 3 1/2 years (til after number 2 was born). It was nice, but I went back to work for a whole host of reasons (and yes, boredom/wanting more intellectual stim was one of them). I'm home with the kids again now. Thinking of re-entering the workforce again.

Yes, there are issues with taking time off - no question. But them's the rules. We all know them (or should know them) going in. You want to change them? Start your own business and put your money where your mouth is...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a great idea but it shouldn't be mandated. Let employers decide for themselves if it's a worthwhile benefit to offer.

Brian, in response to your question 060902, his point is that all these women took the paid leave and then quit, costing the company a lot of money in salary for people who never worked. Not to mention the cost of not being able to fill the positions sooner because the women strung them along. I can't imagine that any amount of cost savings from reduced turnover made up for the extra expenses the company incurred.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 2, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

We have talked about this again and again. In theory, this is a good idea. But in reality some one has to pay for it.

Small businesses, the largest employer in the US, do not have the money to even pay for health care let alone paid parental leave.

The federal, state, and local governments do not have the money as well. We are going to have a huge deficit after the war, tax cuts, stimulus and possible health insurance reform.

The way this is best paid for is by employee insurance. Parental leave in Canada is paid for by employment insurance. So in essence, businesses and employees pay a little each month over the course of their working life for parental leave as well as unemployment benefits. So unless you remain childless, you are self funding your own parental leave over the long haul. So every employee has a stake in the decision.

But flat out asking businesses or the government to pay for it is NOT a reality. And I am not sure it even should be.

My job offers short term disability insurance which covers up to 6 months paid leave for men and women. I would be curious in five years of implementation what are the stats. How many men take 6 motnhs? How many women? How many to care for their own illness? Parental leave? Elderly parent etc...?


But the reality is that the money just isn't there. In an ideal world, I would love to see more paid leave of all sorts. But it is a dream world.

By the way, do people really think they need 6 months paid leave? I stayed home with my first child for five months and 12 weeks with my second. Of course this is just one families experience. But I don't see a difference in my kid that went to day care at 5 months and the one that went at 3 months.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

dennis5: IF the company was smart, they would change the policy to state that if the employee doesn't come back at all, they have to repay the money, or wait until they've been back for a period of time to give them the money.
But that's the policy, so people take advantage of it.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

My job offers short term disability insurance which covers up to 6 months paid leave for men and women.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

How does the short term diabilty program work? How far in advance does the employee need to enroll in the program before a covered "event"? Are disability payments taxable?

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Correction: How does the short term disabilty program work?

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Jez: OK this is a fairly new program (1 year). I had my kids before then. But I believe that you can only enroll during open season and during initial employment hiring. My employer pays the full premium.

I believe you get a percentage paid based on the number of years of service. You may have to work for one year to qualify for any benefit. I think the break down is 1-5 years of service is 25%, 5-9 years of service is 50% pay and 10+ years is 100%.

It covers any illness or disability to you or a primary member of your family (mom, dad, children, and only dependent elderly relatives) that goes after you used 2 weeks or 80 hours of sick leave. It can be used for adoption or birth of a child. Both men and women can go on parental leave.

I believe the disability payments are fully taxable at the state, local, and federal rate. You in essence get your pay check with the normal deductions.

You continue to earn service hours while working. Therefore your insurance is not cancelled, you accrue sick and annual leave etc...

It is great because you never need to worry about a large scale illness like a hysterectomy or the swine flu. Anything over the two weeks, the STD automatically kicks in.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

For my first 2, I was able to save and roll over from year to year vacation and sick time I didn't use. So I was out for about 4 months each time, but was only paid for about 2 months each time.

That meant not taking vacations, but I preferred to have the time off with the baby.

I just don't know why it is anyone else's reponsibility so why should it be my employer's cost? The vacation leave policy seemed fairly generous - esp. with the rollover - and it would be odd for my office to have to pay me to stay home. Why would they do that?

Posted by: Amelia5 | September 2, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm in my 3rd week back at work, after a 4 month maternity leave. 6 weeks of which was paid.

A) Short-term disability insurance does not cover maternity leave, at least not at the Fotune 200 company where I work.
B) I think a policy, similar to education credits, where your tenure with the company, and your tenure upon return to work, play a role in how your maternity benefits are paid, would be fine. If you had been with the company for 5 years, you've basically built up the credit for a certain amount of paid leave, so even if you don't come back, you "banked" that leave in advance. But there may be more paid leave, that you have to pay back if you don't return, I'd be fine with that.
C) I've been AMAZED at the number of people who commented on how generous my employer must be to pay for 4 months off. Apparently, people in the US have never heard of savings. I have enough savings to have stayed home for 6 months, but didn't want to risk my job security.

So in sum - I think that large employers, at least, could probably do a better job of offering a good maternity package, building employee loyalty, and helping keep our kids healthy. A baby's immune system gets weaker for the 1st 6 months of life, before it starts getting stronger. In 2 1/2 weeks of daycare, my little one has had a virus that caused diarrhea which lead to a yeast infection, and now that that's healing she has a chest cold. I wish I could have waited till her immune system was stronger.

Posted by: JHBVA | September 2, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Jez: OK this is a fairly new program (1 year). I had my kids before then. But I believe that you can only enroll during open season and during initial employment hiring. My employer pays the full premium.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
It covers any illness or disability to you or a primary member of your family (mom, dad, children, and only dependent elderly relatives) that goes after you used 2 weeks or 80 hours of sick leave.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Thank you. If it is "free", it's a no brainer, where do I sign? Does it cover spouses/SOs? If it's not "free" or really, really, really cheap, then it's a gamble just like any other insurance risk.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I just want to share how it works here (Canada).

Every non-self-employed person and his or her employer pays into the federal Employment Insurance programme.

Out of this fund, people are paid unemployment benefits if they are laid off, maternity leave benefits, and caregiver leave benefits. The deal is that it's 55% of one's salary up to a cap (about $1600/month). So it's still a significant paycut, but doable for a lot of families. Also, you do pay income tax on that money.

I've had the great fortune never to be laid off, so I've never made a EI claim for that reason, but I had a short maternity leave (my child died and I went back to work) and a full mat leave. I have paid in, over the course of my working life so far, more than I have taken out.

(If you are laid off more than a certain number of times and you are not in an area designated economically unstable, you also have to pay some of that back once you're re-employed, so that's another way the fund stays fairly flush.)

The employer is not the one cutting the cheques during the leave. I think this is something the Americans sometimes miss in their understanding of how it works. Some companies, as a perk, "top up" the federal leave.

There are some costs to the employer: hiring temporary or replacement staff, and training. But there are also benefits to the employer - often "mat leave contracts" are filled by people with less experience who are paid less, and it's an opportunity to cross-train staff. It's also a way for people to get experience when they're on the cusp of making a leap - employers are more willing to take a chance 'cause they know the "real" employee is coming back.

Women get 15 weeks for maternity leave, which is only available to the mother. Then there are 35 weeks parental leave which can be shared between the parents, taken together, taken consecutively, etc. That could be a bit chaotic, but people have to make their requests in writing in advance.

One advantage I feel the Canadian system has is that if a woman takes the full year's leave, which mostly is what happens, she's pretty likely to go back at the end of it. There's enough time to adjust rather than sort of throwing up one's hands and quitting. If she plans to take a full year and puts it in writing (very common) it's generally easy enough to find someone for a full year's contract who's good.

There are professions where there's pressure not to take leave or not to take full leave, of course. Everyone navigates the political consequences on his or her own. :)

I haven't seen any reluctance to hire women due to the possibility that they would get pregnant because of the leave -- the EI deductions are the same for men and women and so there isn't a lot of incentive for an employer to be prejudiced that way, although it probably does happen in some fields. (Sales, for example, might be an area where it's hard to get the same result from someone without all the same contacts.)

Posted by: Shandra1 | September 2, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm about to deal with this very thing... my first child is due in a couple months. My company offers 6 weeks paid leave, then I'll be using some vacation time, and then I'll be on unpaid leave until I return after a total of 12 weeks. Personally, I think companies are more likely to retain women if they offer some paid time - otherwise you may figure out, as posters have noted, that you can afford to quit. But I agree that this should be market driven not government mandated.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

shandra: someone pays. ALWAYS. You are saying ' it's just deducted from your paycheck' which means the employee PAYS. We see it. We understand it. We're not dumb americans.

I'm getting tired of all these govt programs. We don't need another one.

We need programs to help those who are unable to help themselves. We don't need programs to help those who didn't feel like helping themselves.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I did a 3-month maternity leave financed by vacation and sick days that I had been saving for 2 years. I found an old employee handbook several years ago, and my employer used to restrict maternity leaves to 6 weeks. Honestly, at 6 weeks, I was still feeding the baby every 2-3 hours, and I would have been useless at work due to the extreme sleep deprivation.

I have heard of young women being asked in interviews about their marital status and whether they were planning on having kids. I think sometimes the non-HR people are not aware that they are not supposed to ask those questions.

Posted by: skm1 | September 2, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I haven't heard of short term disability insurance covering parental leave - it doesn't where I work.

I did check on Brian's link to parental paid leave "everywhere else in the world." Well, information is for the OECD; these are wealthy countries representing less than 20% of the world's population and most of them struggling to prop up birth rates that are lower than ours.

Posted by: KS100H | September 2, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

then I'll be on unpaid leave until I return after a total of 12 weeks.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

How are health/other benefits affected when you are on unpaid leave?


Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I only favor paid maternity leave if those of us who have to take leave to care for aging parents get an equivalent benefit.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 2, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

JHBVA, my wife received STD both times she was on maternity leave.

jezebel3, my wife had to pay for the employer share of her health insurance when she was on leave.

Posted by: dennis5 | September 2, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I did not have paid maternity leave, though it would have been nice. I was allowed to use all my sick leave and vacation, wich totaled to four weeks and then took two weeks of unpaid. I went back to work when my daughter was six weeks old and she started daycare the week after that. Since her daycare is a block from my office, it has worked out for us; however, a few more weeks at home with her and the absence of the financial strain would have been much appreciated.

Posted by: isiluv24 | September 2, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Canada's leave fund sounds like (what I understand) the UK's Social Care (aka health insurance) is like, you can "pay up" for additional coverage. To say that no one pays or it is free is silly, of course someone pays - and it is always the tax payer.

We better be careful in this country, if we keep mandating employer's providing benefits - there will be no small business owners left. We are already boosting real employment numbers by expanding govt hiring, pretty soon we will be at levels in the UK where roughly 40% of the workers are employed by their federal govt. No one is producing anything anymore, they are most bureacrats. School systems are the same way.

Regardless, this topic has been a discussion point many, many times. Men can't take 6 months off in a vast number of fields because it hurts their earning and promotion potential. If you want to be a 2 income family, one parent will have to give up a certain amount of $ or promotions over the course of their career. To say that the gov't should sheild people from any losses is absolutely assinine.

Lastly, Brian - where did you work previoulsy? You decided to become a stay home dad and now it is all sunshine and roses, but yours is a small, small subset of flexible work/hiring - you are a writer and employed as such, correct? I don't think your field is the best example of how to stay home and explore career opportunities on the side, but that's just my 2 cents.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | September 2, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome: "My employer pays the full premium." (for short term disability)

And that's the key. The IRS treats STD differently depending on who pays the premium (LTD is the same). If the employee pays the premium with after-tax dollars then it's an insurance payment and those are non-taxable. If the employer pays the premium, or (as I was told by HR) if the employee pays with pre-tax dollars, then it's an employer-provided benefit and it's taxable.

Employee-paid STD seems to be pretty rare, though, because it's pretty expensive. Thus when it exists it's pretty much employer-paid and taxable.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | September 2, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

We need programs to help those who are unable to help themselves. We don't need programs to help those who didn't feel like helping themselves.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Well, unfortunately, there are many people who are married, and both have jobs, but still cannot afford any type of unpaid leave. What do they do? Do they have a child and just do their best to save so that they can afford that time period of unpaid leave, coming back to work as soon as humanely possible so that they can start providing more for that child? Or do they wait until maybe someday they work for a place that either A)pays them enough to be able to pay for unpaid leave or B) provides them with paid leave? It's scary for some of us out there who want a family but just can't see right now how it's going to fit into the budget.

Posted by: sighnyc | September 2, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

@060902: Raising a couple of questions ... why didn't any guys take the leave there? And would the rate of turnover been even worse if the leave wasn't paid?

Posted by: rebeldad | September 2, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

1 - it wasn't offered.
2 - I can only guess, but I imagine it would have delayed the average delivery date (assuming it was planned) about 3 months, and had no effect on turnover (i.e. same number would have left)

Posted by: 06902 | September 2, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

My previous employer actually limited how much of your own leave you could take as maternity leave, and that was one of the reasons I left. Even if you had a month of sick leave saved up (which was part of my earned salary!), the company limited you to only one week of sickleave to be used for maternity leave. Fathers got less. Adoptive parents, however, got to use up to two weeks of sickleave. Why the discrepancy? The VP of the company (and son of the owner) had adopted a child several years earlier.

Posted by: floof | September 2, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I think 3 months of basic paid leave should be every parent's/guardian's right, and society as a whole should be paying. Yes, someone has to pay--EVERYONE should pay. Children aren't luxuries. They're the fabric of a society. Its future. The people who will bear the brunt of our failings on this planet. And parents shouldn't have to chose between acclimating to a new child and their job. Both are far too necessary.

Spoken as a childless person.

Posted by: kajr | September 2, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

jezebel - Like Dennis's wife, I would have to pay my share of health benefits while on unpaid leave. But I switched to my husband's insurance in preparation, so that won't be an issue.

BTW - my 6 weeks paid leave is covered by short term disability sick leave as well. For me, I had to file a claim in advance with my predicted last day and then I call the disability provider when I actually give birth.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Having children is a choice. It is not a disability or an illness. Why should other employees and your employer foot the bill for your choices? If you are not at work, performing your job, why should you receive payment? Of course paid leave sounds appealing to those who are in a position to take advantage of it, but every penny you collect is being taken out of someone else's pocket. You get to enjoy the rewards of having the child, so you need to pay the price in cash and time. The addition of your child to our society is of dubious value, and of negative value to your employer. Now you will have to take off for your child's sick days or leave early for T-ball practice and whatnot. How is this something the employer would want to encourage? I suppose you might try to cling to your job a little tighter knowing you have an extra person to support, but making people feel trapped into working somewhere is not likely to be conducive to added productivity.

Posted by: rh36 | September 2, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I pay for my STD insurance. And if I were injured in a car accident, I would earn 70% of my salary for 6 months. But nope, couldn't use it for maternity leave.

As to my health benefits, etc., while I was on unpaid leave - NO ONE was able to fully explain that one to me. I know that my premiums were paid while I wasn't earning income. I was told to expect to see it come out of future paychecks. But no one - not HR, not Benefits, not my boss, was able to get any more details than that. So I have no idea what my next few paychecks will look like now that I am back at work. Good thing I still have money in my emergency account.

Posted by: JHBVA | September 2, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"It's scary for some of us out there who want a family but just can't see right now how it's going to fit into the budget.

Posted by: sighnyc"

My goodness, grow up and welcome to the real world. Yes, people SHOULD wait till they can afford kids, or cut back on the "stuff" or eat beans and weenies all week if that is what it takes. I don't want to subsidize people that think it is too hard to save, that is called rewarding bad behavior.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | September 2, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Children: an asset to society that benefits all so we all should share in the costs, such as public schools, favorable tax treatment and, perhaps, paid leave? Or, are they a choice made by some that has little benefit to me? Both sides can be debated.

To me, the rubber meets the road when our elected representatives (Congress) decide to tax us to pay for it. Of course, if the government is paying, we can expect some oversight: are you married? do you already have kids? how many? are you a citizen of the U.S.?

I like the way the Canadian system was described but I don't know if it could happen here.

Posted by: KS100H | September 2, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Just like health care, employers now cover maternity insurance. In my opinion, all smart employers do. The US now has a solution. Halleluia!

There is a form of employment insurance provided by AFLAC that will pay 75 -80% of your salary if you are out of work due to disability or the birth of child. It starts b/w 1 - 3 weeks after leaving work and goes on for 3 to 6 months. You can only use it for maternity leave 10 months after you sign up.

The employees may pay all, some or none of discounted rate.

I don't work for AFLAC but my employer provides this benefits to us.

Posted by: TTCP | September 2, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

sighnyc: if ALL the programs where people COULD take care of themselves but don't didn't exist - well, then, your taxes wouldn't be so high (see: only sector of economy that is growing is the Govt - see: UK tax rates are going past 50%). Problem solved.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm a fed. I could use my sick leave or donated annual leave up to 6 weeks, then annual leave or LWOP for up to the FMLA 12 weeks. Sounds simple, but every HR dept handles it differently. Some allow donated/sick up to 12 weeks. Some only count FMLA once LWOP starts. Congressional aides have been known to get 12 weeks paid. It's all over the place.

This last baby I took 8 weeks totally off, paid, then went back PT, using the full 60 FMLA days LWOP. I went back to work FT at 15 weeks. My husband works PT, so she started daycare at 15 weeks. We always keep 6 months expenses in savings, so we have the money to take LWOP. I wouldn't have a child I couldn't afford.

Ideally, I would have liked to keep my child out of daycare until 5 months, and had my employer been able to guarantee my job that long, I would have.

Posted by: atb2 | September 2, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"see: UK tax rates are going past 50%"

And that's actually starting to hit the Brits where it really hurts them - football! (Or "soccer" if you prefer.) The BBC's website has an interesting story that because of the taxrates, if a player wants a take-home salary of 3 million pounds per year (5.5 million dollars), it will cost his British club 6.8 million pounds. A Spanish club can provide the same take-home pay for 4.2 million pounds; even the French and German clubs get to pay less.

The prediction was made that in couple of years the British clubs will be at such a competitive disadvantage that they'll be crushed in European competitions, which they currently dominate.
(Everton forever - COYB!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | September 2, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

rh36... if my company wants to provide the BENEFIT of paid maternity leave so as to attract employees, than why shouldn't they? It's called a free market. No employees are forced to continue working here if they don't like. That is the difference between company provided benefits and government provided benefits - taxpayers can't opt-out. And, trust me, regardless of the 6 weeks of paid leave, we will be "paying the price in cash and time"... I don't know if you've heard, but kids require care well past the first few weeks.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if you've heard, but kids require care well past the first few weeks.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

LOL!

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

see: atb2's post for why I don't want more govt bureaucracy ("Sounds simple, but every HR dept handles it differently").

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The current medical standard is that it takes a woman 6 weeks to recover from a regular delivery, and 8 weeks to recover from a C-section.

This is why generally short-term disability plans will pay a woman who has a baby for that length of time. Any additional paid time off is because the employer decided to offer it as part of their benefits package, not because it is considered to be a medical necessity.

The STD paid for by my employer pays 6-8 weeks for that reason depending on the type of delivery and after that any paid time off has to come out of sick leave or annual leave of the employee. We have to pay for our medical insurance premiums while on leave to maintain our health/dental insurance.

Unfortunately, our first child had 10 ear infections and a host of other illnesses his first year so by the time we wanted to have a second child 2 years later, both of us had almost no leave. I literally had 1 hour of leave left when my STD kicked in, so once I was no longer considered disabled at 6 weeks, I had to take the next 6 weeks as unpaid time off just to have 12 weeks off with my second child and my husband was only able to stay home with me for the first 2 weeks of the baby's life by using all of the sick/annual leave he had since his company offers not even one single day of paternity leave.

For me, the STD only kicks in after you use 1 week of your paid time off, only pays you 60% of your salary, and the benefits you receive are taxable. So for 5 weeks I got 60% of my salary out of a 12 week maternity leave. That's a pretty big financial hit - definitely not a free ride like some seem to think maternity leave is.

So the childless are not financing us mothers to be able to take a 12 week vacation to bond with our babies while being paid 100% of our salary. They're financing us to get 60% of our salary for the time during which we are considered to be medically disabled. Which is what anyone else who had surgery, or was in a car accident, or was disabled for any other reason would get.

I know that nothing is free, but it seems like there ought to be a way to have a better more humane system than what is in place right now.

Posted by: StatsMom | September 2, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

stats mom, reread atb2's post @ 12:52 - sounds like you have a savings problem, not a time off/healthcare problem.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | September 2, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

JJ321: I couldn't care less what employers choose to offer, it's when the government mandates that they offer it that I have a problem with it. A case could be made for the government to foot the bill using the taxpayers' money -- just as we all pay for schools, under the premise that an educated populace provides benefit for society as a whole -- but to force an employer to pay is quite different. Offering a benefit to attract a good employee is fine, if an employer feels that is in the best interest of the company. An employee reproducing could only be in the best interest of the employer in unusual cases. There is a reason that parents are "discriminated against" in the workforce -- they obviously (and should) place their children at a higher priority than their jobs. I do not mean to suggest that this type of discrimination is okay, only that it makes economic sense.
Another cost of such a policy is that it will likely become even more difficult for women of childbearing age to get jobs in the first place. Remember when it was perfectly legal to tell Sally she was passed up for the promotion because she would likely soon have kids and leave the workforce, while Stan had no family and could put in the extra hours? People will know better than to say it, but they will have extra incentive to hire someone else. An employer need be no genius to realize that getting 12 months of work for the price of 6 from one person versus 12 for 12 from another is a problem with an easy solution.
And yes, I am well aware that children require time and money, since mine uses up plenty of both! That's MY time and MY money, no forced donations from my coworkers.

Posted by: rh36 | September 2, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I know that nothing is free, but it seems like there ought to be a way to have a better more humane system than what is in place right now.

Posted by: StatsMom | September 2, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse


1. You could have saved more $$$ to cover expenses. Millions do.
2. You could have passed on having the additional kid. Millions do.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Jez: Our STD only covers the employee. It doesn't include your spouse or SO. Our health, dental, and vision covers all family members (including same sex partners). Our life insurance and Long term care and life insurance insurance covers only the employee. It is considered a benefit from just our employer. It isn't like AFLAC that is not associated with a given employer. Ours works with a private insurance company and buys a plan to cover just their own employees.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

rh36 - I'm not suggesting anything should be mandated - in fact I don't think it should as I posted earlier. However, I certainly don't see how using a benefit that my company provides - a company I've been working for for 7 years and paying into a disability fund - counts as taking some sort of donation. 6 weeks out of 7 years doesn't seem to me like a bad investment for a good employee.

Furthermore, I think your argument that it is understandable for companies to want discriminate against parents is a little ill-considered when one takes into account that so much of the workforce, if not the majority of it, is or will be parents - including the people making hiring and corporate policy decisions. Limiting oneself to such a small pool of people doesn't seem like such a "genius" idea either.

Posted by: JJ321 | September 2, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"An employee reproducing could only be in the best interest of the employer in unusual cases."

Wow, what a shortsighted world view. Many of our best employees also want to be parents. If we made them choose one or the other, a lot of really, really good people would walk. But because we give them a way to do both, a lot of smart, dedicated, good people choose to work for us, instead of our (higher-paying) competition. I call that a win.

Posted by: laura33 | September 2, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Jez: Our STD only covers the employee. It doesn't include your spouse or SO. Our health, dental, and vision covers all family members (including same sex partners). Our life insurance and Long term care and life insurance insurance covers only the employee. It is considered a benefit from just our employer.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 2, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow! If all of these benefits are fully paid for by your employer, that is really sweet. I know several feds who think that ALL insurance is a scam/con/rip-off. They have somehow managed to convince their wives to forego any insurance participation, except car& house insurance, where required. I don't know how they sleep at night without medical coverage, or life insurance, etc., but they do.

Posted by: jezebel3 | September 2, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

laura: that's the point. In your company, they've chosen to be family friendly and it's working.
In other companies, they do say: choose family or us. Or they pass over people who don't put in 100 hours a week, or whatever. And people have the option to work there or work elsewhere.
It's rarely about money at that point...but seriously - I'm all for having the employee decide which type of work environment works for them (or, well, none, as is where I am now!).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I work for a major financial services company, and they have pretty good benefits. When older son was born (before FMLA passed) I'd been with my employer less than a year, so I wasn't eligible for the paid maternity leave they had back then. All I got was state disability - it was max'ed at a fixed dollar amount or 55% of salary, whichever was lower - my salary was too high and I got the fixed amt. I went back to work after eight weeks when disability stopped (cesarean birth, or it would have been only six weeks), and I was physically not ready for going back, but had no choice financially.

Fast-forward five years to second son's birth. FMLA had passed by now, and my employer had downgraded their benefits to match it - no more paid maternity leave. I did have plenty of vacation and sick leave, so I was able to get almost full pay for the six weeks of leave I took. (YAY! VBAC - a bazillion times easier recovery than after the C/S)

One week back at work, and DH got his diabetes diagnosis. I was able to take a week of FMLA leave, and it was paid out of my future vacation/sick leave accrual - like I said, my employer offers really good benefits.

Now, I appreciate the point of people who are saying planning and savings are important before having a child. But sometimes - like in my family - all the planning and savings gets wiped out by circumstances.

I had fertility problems, and neither of my kids were planned. 10 years after I'd begun trying to get pregnant, and 3 years after I'd given up on fertility drugs, because they simply didn't work for me, and I was *surprised* to find out I was 4 months along. (shocked, flabbergasted, stunned, flummoxed... um, where's a thesaurus? - I'm still not even close conveying our level of astonishment)

We weren't expecting a serious medical condition like my husband's diabetes coming so soon after the second baby was born, and my need to take off additional time while he was getting stablized. I was very lucky in that I worked for a company that valued their employees and took good care of me.

The payoff for my employer? I've been working for them 18 years, so far. My sister does all her financial services from my company - and she owns rental property, so she's a *good* customer. My sons both have children's accounts, and the chances are good that they'll grow up to be life-long customers.

If any company has long-term plans - 30 years into the future, not just the next quarter's profits - they're smart to treat employees-with-children as well as they possibly can. Those children are more likely to grow up to be customers of their parents' employer if Mommy and Daddy are happy, instead of the competition's customer because Mommy or Daddy felt they were treated poorly.

Posted by: SueMc | September 2, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing SueMc. I like the idea that companies view their employees as a long-term investment but that describes only a small slice of today's workforce. Entire industries come and go in a decade, people leave jobs because their spouse got transferred across the country, etc. I hear even the financial services industry has had some problems recently - not the fault of the worker bees but they lose their jobs just the same.

It's great that some people find employers for the long run but it is a fantasy for most and I don't think it is reasonable to construct public policy around that ideal.

More reasonable is to assume that the majority of workers will change employers every five years, will be involuntarily unemployed at least once in their lifetime and somewhere along the way they will consider having kids. Fitting a paid leave policy around that situation is much more difficult.

Posted by: KS100H | September 2, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

If any company has long-term plans - 30 years into the future, not just the next quarter's profits - they're smart to treat employees-with-children as well as they possibly can. Those children are more likely to grow up to be customers of their parents' employer if Mommy and Daddy are happy, instead of the competition's customer because Mommy or Daddy felt they were treated poorly.

Posted by: SueMc | September 2, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse
______________________________

Nice idea but it doesn't work like that in the "real" world. Short-term profits and stock price are the only things that matter. And since most people are not likely to stay with an employer for more than a few years (voluntary or involuntary), the long-term view isn't relevant in my opinion.

Posted by: pipe1 | September 2, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

....but it's nice that you found one of these employers SueMc

Posted by: pipe1 | September 2, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

pipe: but if you're a smart company, you look ahead 30 years (coughgooglecough) you will have a good company.
People will know you have a larger time horizon, etc...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 2, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I dunno - it seems to be working pretty well in the "real world".

My employer is one of the few really big financial services companies that's *not* struggling with the current economic turmoil. At present, I'm working with eight contractors (our department has five full-time employees) brought in to help with our merger.

The company has been around for over a century and a half, so they've clearly been doing *something* right all this time. I can't even guess the number of other less well-run companies that they've bought in all that time.

I'm comfortable giving senior management credit for learning from a long line of their predecessors - "Take care of the employees, because they take care of the customers, and happy customers are who keep us in business."

The last data center they built was about a decade ago, and it was named for a woman who ran the Sacramento office in the 1870's. How many 19th century companies were putting *women* in charge of anything? The way the company treats its people now is just a logical progression from how its people have been treated from the very beginning. With *only* 18 years, I'm just getting close to the average length of employment.

Posted by: SueMc | September 2, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

A company shouldn't be forced to pay for this-since primarily women will be taking it even if it is offered to both men and women then it will discourage many people from hiring women...also it cuts down on the company's profits which just hurts the economy.

My parents waited 7 years to have me after getting married then 4 more years to have my brother because they wanted to be financially ready. What happened to people being self-reliant like this? If you can't afford to not work for a couple months can you realistically afford a child?

Posted by: sunflower571 | September 2, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

1. Paid Family Leave should be offered to everyone - be it mothers, fathers, or employees having to take care of sick relatives.
2. The notion that one can "save" for having a child, while logical, completely ignores the economic realities of the day. You can save until the cows come home, but should you or your child suffer any kind of health crises, "savings" become moot.
3. I don't believe it is unreasonable as a social policy, to allow parents to stay home and take care of children when they are in infancy. Many women are forced back to work earlier than they are physically campable. Many women are unable to breastfeed their children because they recognize that they won't be able to pump at work weeks after their return. And the point was raised that infants have far weaker immune systems that cannot withstand the illnesses passed around many daycare centers.
4. This conversation necessitates a related conversation abotu affordable daycare options. Two-income families are a requirement these days, particularly when americans are so vulnerable to unemployment. Assuming that parents have to return to work to pay their mortgages, health care premiums, put food on the table, etc., we must find a way to prioritize our children's safety.
The sad bottom line, is that family policies are talked about as "perks" to workers, when in fact we need to change the whole paradigm of the conversation. Family policies should be created with the interests of CHILDREN in mind.

Posted by: claudlaw | September 3, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The way some of you talk, it's like children are luxury items. When each of us is laying close to death in a hospital/hospice/etc., its these children who will be providing us with the medical care/legal aid/etc necessary. Talk about a short-sighted view.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | September 3, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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