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National Petition for Paid Parental Leave
DAYTON -- Becoming a parent for the first time can be stressful, from the middle of the night feedings to figuring out whats causing your baby to cry. But something even more stressful for many American families is the struggle for time off when the new baby arrives.
Some new parents even have to go into debt because the U.S. is one of the last remaining countries in the world without paid maternity leave. Day care teacher Yvonne Haley is the mother of 3 boys. When she took maternity leave with her first son it took some planning. "I took about 7 weeks off work. I wasn't paid." Yvonne added, "You're not getting that paycheck for a couple of weeks, so on top of giving birth and all of the expenses that come with that, you're concerned about the decrease in your income.
The National Partnership for Women and Families wants a mandatory paid parental leave insurance program here. It says most working moms in the U.S. are like Yvonne. Only about one fifth have paid maternity leave. Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993, allowing men and women on the job for a year to take up to 12 weeks off for the birth of a child -- but it doesn't require paid leave. Smaller companies don't have to comply, and not all part-time workers benefit.
So employment discrimination expert Jeannette Cox says only about 40 percent of America's workers are covered by it. She says, "The folks with the lowest income, the folks who most need it are less likely to have it because their employer is less likely to offer it as a perk." Cox is also a new mother. Her job paid for her recent maternity leave, but it's rare.
According to the International Labour Association, three years ago, Australia became the second to last industrialized nation in the world to provide paid maternity leave for mothers of newborns, and many countries, including Britain, Brazil, France and the Netherlands pay for paternity leave too. Only the U.S. and two other countries don't ensure 3 months of paid leave for new moms.
Cox says cost is a concern, but mostly it boils down to American culture. We tend to view family as a private matter." She adds, We also don't have paid sick leave required by law and this is a very similar issue."
But there's a lot of research to back up the public benefits: children who are healthier and parents who are more attached to the workforce. Cox says, "It's useful to reduce turnover across the board. It's not just about keeping women. It's about keeping good workers."
Working Mother Magazine is campaigning to ensure paid parental leave for all of America's workers by 2015. It's pushing Congress to pass a new law, and asking men and women across the country to sign its online petition.
But opponents say a national paid leave policy would make it more expensive to hire workers, particularly women. And when German research showed women were leaving the workforce after extended paid parental leave, the country cut the duration by half -- resulting in a surge of women going back to work.
When Yvonne had Brody and Jack, her husband got paid parental leave because he was in the military. She says, "He just had to call his boss and say, hey my wife had the baby, It was a big transition for us, so it was very helpful.
Ironically, changing the trend could come down to men. Cox says men of the Millennial Generation take more parental leave, and the growing number of stay at home dads could also factor into a greater outcry for mandating paid leave to care for a new baby.
For the online petition, click here.
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