A Mother’s Day gift: paid maternity leave Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 05, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Did you know that women are the sole breadwinners in nearly half of U.S. households?

Yet, when women give birth to a baby, 88 percent of them are paid nothing in the weeks they take off after having a child.

These statistics were reported in an article by Cindy Goodman in the Miami Herald entitled, “Best Mother’s Day gift: paid maternity leave.”

As we approach Mother’s Day on May 8, it’s a time to thank and celebrate all mothers who gave us the gift of life.

Need for paid maternity leave

However, it’s also an opportunity to consider some of the challenges facing mothers today. As more women are working to support their families, the need for paid maternity leave — or indeed family leave — is more important than ever.

As Goodman points out in her article, “The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave nationwide — but it has been moving toward changing that, and some local and state governments already have made that move.”

In our state, the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act requires that all employers with 50 or more permanent employees must allow employees of either sex up to six weeks of leave in a calendar year for the birth or adoption of a child; up to two weeks of leave for the care of a child, spouse, parent, domestic partner, or parent of a domestic partner with a serious health condition; and up to two weeks of leave for the employee’s own serious health condition.

The law also states that no one may “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right” provided under the law.

Under the state law, employers who have 25 or more employees must post a notice which states the employer’s policies for family and medical leave.

Positive changes

Goodman points out that what has been most remarkable is the momentum from private companies to offer paid parental leave. In 2016 alone, more than a dozen notable employers have introduced paid parental leave or upped their existing offerings.

Companies such as Etsy, Bank of America, Ernst & Young, and Twitter joined The Virgin Group, Microsoft, Amazon, and others in previous announcements about giving their new parents significant paid time off.

Those changes followed Netflix’s announcement that it would begin offering one year of paid parental leave to salaried employees and 16 weeks to hourly workers.

Research has shown that giving paid paternal leave pays off in the rate of retaining workers and reducing the costs of recruiting and training new employees.

Moral issue

But beyond the monetary reasons, I see providing paid parental leave as a moral issue. If we want to support mothers and fathers in choosing life for their children, we should help support them after their children are born, too.

Pope Francis, speaking to the Christian Union of Italian Business Executives, declared that working women “must be protected and helped in this dual task: the right to work and the right to motherhood."

The Holy Father went on to outline the responsibilities businesses have to their female employees, emphasizing that “the challenge is to protect their right to a job that is given full recognition while at the same time safeguarding their vocation to motherhood and their presence in the family.”

Let’s encourage our businesses and government entities to help mothers in the workplace, including providing paid maternity/family leave.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!