A Reminder: Parental Leave Laws Still Suck

Right now, working Americans that have children get 12 unpaid weeks away from their jobs — as long as they work for big companies and worked there for 12 months prior. Otherwise, they're screwed.

Heidi Brown writes in Forbes:

To qualify, they must have been employed for at least 12 months at the same firm before the time off and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the same period.

What makes this law so unhelpful for many working women is that companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from abiding by it—meaning that these smaller firms are not obligated to grant any time off to care for a newborn (or sick family member).

And, in most cases, they do so less and less.

A 2008 report from the Families and Work Institute indicated that 16% of companies with at least 100 employees provide full pay during maternity leave. This is down from 27% in 1998.

Gotta love a recession!

Not that most women take their government-sponsored leave, anyway.

And since the majority of women can't afford not to work for a full three months, they also tend to return to work sooner than the law dictates. Perhaps that's why in May 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 55% of first-time mothers were working six months after giving birth. In the early 1970s, only 25% were working 6 months after childbirth.

You can guess where the supposed part of the American Family is on this one.

In the U.S., which is second only to Japan among the highest corporate-tax rates in the world, employers balk at the extra expense of paying an employee who's not working. On Feministe, a popular blog for women's issues, "Dan," who described himself and his wife as entrepreneurs, remarked that too often, employers have to ante up for more employee benefits. "It seems like everything in our society is something that the employer is expected to magically provide," he says. "And then we wonder why unemployment is through the roof and the economy is crashing!"

Right. The economy is in free-fall because employers have to give too much unpaid leave to their female employees. Good to know.

U.S. Maternity Leave Benefits Are Still Dismal [Forbes]