Roughly half of the U.S. workforce is comprised of women, many of them married. For women who get pregnant in the workforce, becoming a new parent can be a daunting undertaking as not all businesses offer a maternity leave program. Maternity leave is a temporary absence from work given to expecting or new mothers before and after their baby is born.
Maternity leave policies first became federally mandated by the Family and Medical Leave act of 1993. Under this act, new mothers are granted an unpaid leave of at least 12 weeks. To be eligible, a woman has to work in a firm with at least 50 employees and have been employed for at least 12 months.
According to the United Nations’ survey, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that does not offer a government-mandated paid maternity leave. Only four states offer state funded maternity leave programs: California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined paid leave as a national economic priority because it would help increase the percentage of women in the workforce and help middle-class families earn stable incomes.
Even though unpaid leave is mandated, many women are unable or unwilling to take time off due to the income that they would lose. Additionally, due to the stipulations in the FMLA, many women are not eligible for maternity leave. Businesses that offer paid maternity leave are still in the minority. According to a study conducted by the Department of Labor, only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.
Research shows that paid maternity leave improves both the mother and child’s health. Studies across a range of countries have found that paid maternity leave leads to decreased premature births and infant mortality. Mothers who have access to paid leave are more likely to breastfeed. According to the research by Center for Disease Control and Prevention, babies who are breastfed are less likely to get infections, asthma, become obese or succumb to sudden infant death syndrome.
Does your company offer paid maternity leave?
Although legally not required to do so, more and more businesses are voluntarily providing paid maternity leave programs. Here are some of the benefits:
* Brands the company as an employee-friendly place to work
* Guarantees a more diversified workforce
* Strengthens employee loyalty
* Decreases employee turnover
* Results in higher productivity
* Reduces absenteeism
As the labor market has gotten tighter, one of the ways employers are competing for talent is by competing on the basis of family-friendly benefits.
A study by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, found that women who took advantage of paid-family-leave were far more likely than mothers who hadn’t to be working nine to 12 months after the birth of their child.
Additionally, women who took paid leave and returned to their jobs worked 15 to 20 percent more hours during the second year of their child’s life than those who did not take leave
Fewer infant illnesses with more intensive early care results in fewer absentee days by the mother and may reduce health-care premiums.
As society evolves and more millennials enter the workforce, those businesses that do not offer a better work/life balance for their employees will have a more difficult time attracting and retaining qualified talent.
About the Author: Emily Sharp is a creative writer who helps people succeed at health and business self-education. She writes articles for Brainfalls and contributes with different internet journals to spread her knowledge.
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