"...a woman who becomes a mother cannot have the same career as a man."
January 27, 2015 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Can the U.S. Ever Fix Its Messed-Up Maternity Leave System?
Most new mothers are in their 20s or 30s, which means they grew up in a world of female Supreme Court justices, politicians, and astronauts. They have more college degrees than men, they entered the workforce in near-equal numbers, and they chose their careers assuming that having children wouldn’t mean losing money. Almost two-thirds of women with children under 6 work, about twice the rate of the previous generation. "I went to college and found something I loved. I got a job. I married and had babies and just assumed maternity leave was something that existed," says Annalisa Spencer, 31, an electrical engineer in Salt Lake City who has three children, and got no leave for the third. "Nobody told me it would be like this."

The Atlantic: A Map of Maternity Leave Policies Around the World
If you're a woman working in the United States and your employer provides paid maternity leave, consider yourself lucky: Just 11 percent of Americans employed by private industry have access to some sort of paid family leave. For state and government employees, 16 percent can take paid family leave. The U.S. federal government provides no paid family leave to its employees, though they can use their sick days or vacation days that they've saved up.
Mashable: No family left behind
Two in five American women of childbearing age do not qualify for job-protected leave under the FMLA, according to a Center for Economic and Policy Research report [PDF]. This includes the part-time cashier or fast-food worker who doesn't log the necessary 1,250 hours in a year to be eligible for FMLA leave. It includes the waitress at a family-owned restaurant that employs fewer than 50 staff. It includes the full-time worker at a big retail chain who hasn't yet been employed by the company for a year. While you might expect each of these women to receive some kind of maternity leave, they have no legal right to it.
NYT: Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay
After California became the first state to offer paid parental leave, new mothers were more likely to return to work, according to a study [PDF] by Maya Rossin-Slater and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University and Christopher J. Ruhm of the University of Virginia. One to three years later, mothers of small children were working more and at higher incomes. Paid leave provides job continuity, economists say, so women are less likely to leave the labor force. Paid leave is particularly important for low-income mothers, who more than doubled their maternity leaves in California.

"When people have paid leave, it just gives them a path back to work, whereas when they drop out of the labor force and stop working in order to take a leave with a young child, they come back slower," Ms. Stevenson said.
Bonus reading and references: To expound on the final link: The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) was brought before both chambers of the 113th Congress in December 2013. It was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

The proposed legislation, which would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year regardless of the size of their employer if enacted, was quickly referred to committee, where it has been (presumably permanently) stalled ever since.
posted by divined by radio (75 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great post. I actually think that this has very little to do with punishing new mothers, though, and all to do with American work culture. We don't even have good sick leave policies, nationally. We are workaholics. If you want time off for anything, you need to be willing to risk your job. It's terrible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2015 [34 favorites]


This is hugely important, and sadly hugely unlikely to happen.

With the unholy alliance between "if I have to pay any attention to employees at all we'll go under and you killed those jobs!" bizfolk and the "women should be in the home and the man must pay no mind to anything child-related" retrofolk, it's not going to happen any time soon.
posted by aramaic at 10:14 AM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I actually think that this has very little to do with punishing new mothers, though, and all to do with American work culture. We don't even have good sick leave policies, nationally. We are workaholics.

I agree up to the last part. I remember the whining that preceded the passage of the fairly toothless Family and Medical Leave Act, and it was all about how much it'd cost those poor, downtrodden corporations and businesses.

It isn't about us being workaholics; it's about corporations generally not being willing to deal with labor on anything resembling a level playing field.
posted by Gelatin at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2015 [63 favorites]


Can the U.S. Ever Fix Its Messed-Up ____________ System?
posted by freakazoid at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2015 [43 favorites]


Frankly if it weren't for Canada's maternity leave regulations we never would have been able to afford a child and we might not have had one. And we hover around the national average income, so that tells me it's not just us. On top of that, both of our employers were quite generous and they didn't have to be. Every time I start to think that things would be easier money-wise in the USA, I remember things like this.

this has very little to do with punishing new mothers

Maybe not in intention, but certainly in effect.
posted by Hoopo at 10:17 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sadly, for the first link, I fear Betteridge's law of headlines applies.

Great post, by the way.
posted by Gelatin at 10:17 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not even on planning on having kids and I'm in awe of how mat leave (even pat leave!) works here in Canada. My sister in the US, who has two children, couldn't believe me when I told what happens when an employed woman in Quebec gets pregnant and has a baby.
posted by Kitteh at 10:21 AM on January 27, 2015


Paternity leave is important too. (Hear me out on this, because I know how it probably looks.)

New dads should get to spend time with their kids, new moms need all the help that they can get, and employers shouldn't accidentally set up an incentive to prefer men over women.

Admittedly, new mothers probably need/deserve the time off than the dads do, but the last point is crucially important, and overrides everything else. An employer that only creates a maternity leave program inadvertently creates a huge monetary incentive for the company to favor men in its hiring practices.
posted by schmod at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2015 [90 favorites]


Paternity leave is important too. (Hear me out on this, because I know how it probably looks.)

you're totally right, and to toot Canada's horn again, what the government offers doesn't specify which parent can take the leave. So it comes down to preference and allows you to choose whose salary you can best afford to get only 2/3 of for a year. A good friend of mine stayed home with their first while his wife worked, and loved it.
posted by Hoopo at 10:25 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


If we can just get automation/AI good enough, this problem will solve itself: our capitalist system will no longer need people as an industrial input, so women won't have to have children anymore.
posted by weston at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, paternity leave is important too as that provides an opportunity for bonding between the father and child. You would think the state would want to encourage this kind of bonding.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:32 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know how much any of this is going to matter in the future. Huge swaths of the job market are moving to 'independent contractor' status or multiple part-time jobs. It doesn't matter how good your maternity leave policy is on paper if nobody is eligible.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:34 AM on January 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


Some companies with more progressive policies offer paternity leave in addition to maternity leave. While this evens out the playing field, the unasked question is whether paid parental leave is something that employers should provide at all. Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:36 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Paternity leave is important too. (Hear me out on this, because I know how it probably looks.)

Advocating paternity leave looks to me (a male who has benefited from a paternity leave policy at work) like ensuring both mothers and fathers are treated equitably and, therefore, has no conflict with feminism. Not to mention the very valid social benefit any portmanteau in a storm pointed out. Moreover, fathers who can take time off work too can help mothers with the considerable work of caring for a newborn.
posted by Gelatin at 10:36 AM on January 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's kind of shocking to me that the government doesn't offer paid maternity leave to its employees. Paid maternity leave was one of the great things about the military.
posted by corb at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


You mean paid paternity leave.

In California mothers are given Paid Family Leave after any employer based paid leave is exhausted. It's not a lot of money, but it's not insignificant. This cost is covered, I believe, by payroll taxes.
posted by 90s_username04 at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just 11 percent of Americans employed by private industry have access to some sort of paid family leave.
Oh, wow. I knew I had a hell of a privilege-handbag but I had no idea it was 11 percent. Only half of the companies that I've worked at that had maternity leave had paternity leave.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


And for people who aren't in highly-paid jobs, knowing that that 2nd income could be the difference between staying afloat and sinking quickly into poverty makes it all the more urgent for us as citizens to agitate for better national policies.
posted by droplet at 10:41 AM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Huge swaths of the job market are moving to 'independent contractor' status or multiple part-time jobs. It doesn't matter how good your maternity leave policy is on paper if nobody is eligible.

Ok, I kind of dislike that people do this, but now I'm going to do it, too: In Canada, (see, isn't that annoying?), self-employed people and contract workers can opt in to the EI system (from which parental leave is paid), so even independent contractors can have paid parental leave.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:42 AM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?

Start planning for the dead end now, sort of thing? Except that's not the real choice. People are going to have kids anyway, the question is whether you encourage employers to ignore this and thus place the burden almost entirely on women, or whether you enact policies to take reproduction into account that result in better outcomes for all involved, employers and the economy at large included. "What if we all grow wings?" is similarly not a realistic transportation policy position.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:50 AM on January 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


I worry about this so much. I'm a Canadian living in the US, married to an American. I kind of feel like even though I do get six paid weeks through my employer and then six more unpaid through FMLA, we should move back to Canada ASAP. But I don't even have anywhere in Canada I really want to live. Argh. We have it as good as almost anyone in the US and we are two highly educated, professional, high tax bracket paying people who will probably be driven out of this country because of its crazy maternity leave policies.
posted by carolr at 10:51 AM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Around 2000, a group of friends were making predictions about what we will expect to see in 2015. My prediction was external gestation. I don't know how or why it would make it a fairer world and workplace but I'm disappointed it didn't happen. Imagine that brave new world!
posted by savitarka at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2015


> our capitalist system will no longer need people as an industrial input, so women won't have to have children anymore.

On the other hand, since everyone will be unemployed, it'll leave plenty of time for having as many children as they can afford.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:55 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


If we start treating employees like people instead of replaceable cogs in the machine, it will be no end of trouble. Will nobody think of the poor shareholders?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


I was in Estonia last week, and in part of a conversation about my new baby daughter my host mentioned that there they have 3 years maternity leave, 18 months of which is paid and fungible between either parent.

Basically all the ex-Viking nations are humiliating the rest of the world on this.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


Imagine a world where we work as a way to make life better for all citizens.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:57 AM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


What would be the point of that?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The US, Suriname, and Papua New Guinea. Literally everywhere else seems to manage at least some paid leave for mothers of infants. I don't know about Suriname and PNG, but in the US, I suppose the reason we can't manage it is because we're too poor, corrupt, and incompetent. Right?
posted by rtha at 11:02 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Imagine a world where we work as a way to make life better for all citizens.

Hmm, idk, that doesn't sound very profitable.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:14 AM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


It isn't about us being workaholics; it's about corporations generally not being willing to deal with labor on anything resembling a level playing field.

California has had paid family leave for a decade, and a recent Department of Labor study reported that:
The law has not caused major problems for California employers. The vast majority (roughly 90 percent) report positive effects or no effects in terms of productivity, profitably, retention, and morale. Small employers, if anything, report fewer problems than large firms.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:14 AM on January 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Imagine a world where we work as a way to make life better for all citizens.

BUT SOCIALISM WHARRGARBL!
posted by octothorpe at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


California has had paid family leave for a decade
Good point. The companies that had maternity leave either were in California significantly or headquartered there.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2015


My bad, my lack of selfish disregard was showing for a second ;-)
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?

Do you really want a response to this, or was this sarcastic? Because the discussion on why the right to reproduce is a thing, and how investing in early childhood pays off, could go on a while.

But maybe you're into the idea that humanity is a loss and needs to die out?
posted by emjaybee at 11:23 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is going to sound like I'm whining about the temperature of my Evian, but just for the record: I took about 10 weeks off when I had my kid last year. My paid leave was simply taken out of my regular vacation and sick leave time. Now, after working here for ten years, I have 84 hours of leave of any kind, with flu season stretching ahead. (We're in Wisconsin, so I'm guessing I'll be on the hook until May.)

That also reflects the fact that I chose to come back full-time when most of my new-mom coworkers have been able to come back half-time for six months or so. I have been known to nap in my office because I'm so tired that I can't focus on the screen.

The only reason I even have that many hours is because my husband's job is somewhat flexible with regards to working from home... and my parents are in town to cover a few hours when he can't move something. Which was necessary when our daughter was throwing up for an entire week this month and couldn't go to daycare. And we have an EASY baby. (But hey, babies are almost never sick, amirite?)

A few weeks after giving birth, we chatted with another new mom with the tiniest little boy I'd ever seen out in public. He was nine days old and just over six pounds. His mom had to go back to work as a pastry chef three days later because "nobody else could do it."
posted by Madamina at 11:31 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, since everyone will be unemployed, it'll leave plenty of time for having as many children as they can afford.

And they will be able to have them at the Ritz or under a bridge, according to preference.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:33 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?

If you're looking at the effect on the economy, maybe so. Ask someone who studies the economy of Japan.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


But maybe you're into the idea that humanity is a loss and needs to die out?

There's a difference between actively encouraging something and just allowing it to occur all by itself.

There is a fairly strong argument for the idea that there are too many people on this planet to support them all and population increases are only going to make it worse, so I don't see a problem with actively discouraging people from procreating. There are plenty of people out there who will do it regardless, the human race doesn't need the encouragement.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:43 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


...a woman who becomes a mother cannot have the same career as a man.

I'm sure some view this as a fringe benefit of Team USA Bootstrap Yourself.

If I had a daughter I'd be urging her to try out some country that's more civilized. Or California. :-) Probably too late for me to go elsewhere permanently, but then again I don't have to worry about maternity leave any more!

Also, what Mitrovarr said.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 11:45 AM on January 27, 2015


cjorgensen, I agree with your intent, however those who are going to be born have no control over that circumstance, perhaps we can make their arrival in the world a bit easier by giving their parents more time with them?
posted by just another scurvy brother at 11:46 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think maternity and paternity leave are essential. I don't think it should be up to the employer to provide it.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:48 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


As much as I love the US, this, employment practices in general and health system mean I could never live there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:48 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


...the unasked question is whether paid parental leave is something that employers should provide at all. Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?

Blissfully childfree, lifelong proponent of ZPG here to report that sticking our fingers in our ears and refusing to acknowledge the biological imperative for human reproduction is not a terribly realistic solution for overpopulation, although it is rather satisfying.

Our government's steadfast refusal to create a sane, compassionate, federal-level paid parental leave policy continues to push us ever closer to a world in which only truly wealthy people can afford to have children (i.e. the little buggers who will one day be tasked with changing our diapers in a nursing home someday, if we're lucky enough to not starve and/or freeze to death on the street).

So to my mind, the unasked question is less "Is parental leave something that employers should provide at all?" and more "Do we want to live in a world populated exclusively by rich people and their similarly privileged offspring?" Since my own answer to that question is oh sweet jesus christ no, this issue is actually remarkably important to me on a personal level even though I'll never have children of my own. I also think it's something our citizenry and elected officials will need to take a long, hard look at very, very soon if we don't want to wake up in a dozen years or so to find ourselves living in an even more extreme version of a plutocracy than we do already.

Parents of the world, I salute you. Thanks for doing a job I could never do. I hope we can figure out a way to give you some paid time off with your kids someday!
posted by divined by radio at 11:53 AM on January 27, 2015 [29 favorites]


And yet another reason I'm happy I plan on never giving birth. I don't get the wonderful experience of getting shat on by America's anti-family corporate culture.

Are conception and reproduction really behaviors that we, culturally, want to encourage?

Astronomical birth rates are largely occurring in developing countries, where the extra births aren't so much a result of family-friendly government policies as lack of access to birth control and opportunities for women. Outside the US most developed countries are facing population decreases, which has serious long-term economic effects. And the only reason the US is experiencing its own increases is because of immigrants. Shitting on families in developed countries is not going to alleviate the environmental issues caused by population booms in other countries.
posted by schroedinger at 12:06 PM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's nice that this is coming at the same time that they stopped the 20-week abortion ban. State legislatures are still trying to go forward with it, though.
posted by halifix at 12:08 PM on January 27, 2015


Meanwhile, in addition to ample maternity leave, Finland provides every new mother with the following, every time they have a kid.

Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
Box itself doubles as a crib
Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
Picture book and teething toy
Bra pads, condoms
posted by COD at 12:15 PM on January 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


This and the lack of free, quality childcare is a huge tax on women in America, and ultimately hurts everyone. I'm probably not ever going to have children, but it's still part of building a more just and equitable world — and a relatively simple way to improve the lives of millions of people.
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't see a problem with actively discouraging people from procreating. There are plenty of people out there who will do it regardless, the human race doesn't need the encouragement.

We know how to get fertility rates to or below replacement if that's what we want to do. You educate girls, make birth control accessible, and improve health care so that the vast majority of kids who are born will live to grow up. It's not a mystery how to do that.

Alternatively, you can look at countries that do have more parental leave. The UK offers much more parental leave than the US does. Their population growth rate... is about the same as ours (0.6% for UK, 0.7% for US).
posted by Anne Neville at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


The only way to solve this problem is highly public political activism and voting. There have been many civil rights changes brought about this way. We still have a very, very long way to go on some issues, but the change that has happened has been fought for very hard. The corporatocracy certainly isn't going to change their minds on their own.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest impediment is public sentiment. I routinely hear people, otherwise fairly liberal, urban, coastal types, in their 20's, both men and women being incredibly judgemental about maternity leave. (Never paternity leave, because who gets that?)

I had a female close friend go off about a co-worker who had the nerve to give birth during busy season, or a teacher who failed to plan her pregnancy outside of the school year. People openly admit they would never hire a pregnant woman. Now, these same people would say they don't have a bias against non-pregnant woman, but you have to assume that biases how they see female candidates. This is one of those topics that absolutely triggers my feminist rant reflex.
posted by fermezporte at 12:31 PM on January 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


(Never paternity leave, because who gets that?)

Strangely enough, my workplace gives three days of paid paternity/adoption leave completely separate from vacation/sick time. Birth mothers are only covered under FMLA.

I believe that men are protected by FMLA if they take paid/unpaid leave in the first year after the birth of their child, up to twelve weeks, exactly the same way that women are currently protected. I think a lot of fathers might not be aware of this?
posted by muddgirl at 12:39 PM on January 27, 2015


Advocating paternity leave looks to me (a male who has benefited from a paternity leave policy at work) like ensuring both mothers and fathers are treated equitably and, therefore, has no conflict with feminism.

Yeah. I added the disclaimer to the top of my comment, because the first sentence sounds like it came out of the MRA handbook.

And, really, this is one of the things that pisses me off about MRA types, because they discredit a huge swath of legitimate "men's" issues, many of which would directly advance the goals of feminism and gender equality if we addressed them.

Gender Equality is not a zero-sum game. Everybody benefits.
posted by schmod at 12:39 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Although my childbearing days are long over, I am incredibly grateful to work for a company that gives 12 weeks paid parental leave. And yes that is parental as maternity and paternity. I wish I had that option when I was a new mother. Instead, I ended up becoming a SAHM out of financial necessity. (My company offers child care reimbursement, too, but I don't need that now either.)
posted by Ruki at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2015


What I love is how passive the voice is in the "benefitspro" link. It just so happens, coincidentally, that FMLA has "gaps". It just so happens that there's a "conundrum" (doesn’t cover all workers and doesn’t guarantee paid time off).

We certainly wouldn't want to point fingers or name names as to who is the cause of, or why this is the state of affairs.
posted by symbioid at 12:51 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]




Of course maternity leave needs to be part of a big picture. That map shows Japan has 52 weeks of maternity leave, thats great. But its an absolutely terrible place to try and be a working mother. The message there is very strong about choosing to be a mother or choosing to work, and the pressure on mothers to stay home is immense. This is one of the key reasons for their sharp population decline, as more women choose career or other pursuits over motherhood (or just over the extremely one-sided burden of childcare and housework).

So while Sweden and Japan both have similar maternity leave policies, the reality of being a mom in those countries is night and day.

But every bit helps, and the US should absolutely have more maternity and paternity leave.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:09 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


You educate girls, make birth control accessible, and improve health care...

Hmm. Three out of three are nonstarters. Do you have an answer that involves weapons, or proselytizing, or possibly weaponized proselytizing?
posted by aramaic at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


Moreover, fathers who can take time off work too can help mothers with the considerable work of caring for a newborn.

When Elder Monster was born in 1992, we determined that it would cost us more for me to return to work than it would for me to stay home. Instead, husband took on a second job. He fussed for a little bit about how "easy" I had it...until I had a family emergency and had to go out of town overnight. He was a hot mess by the time I returned around lunch time the next day, and suddenly understood why some days when he came home between jobs, I would hand him Elder Monster with a curt "Hold this.", then go cry in the shower for half an hour.

Parenting really is a two (or multiple!) person job, and it angers and frustrates me that men who take the time to participate in childrearing are seen as slackers. There is nothing easy about having a small human puke down your back at 3AM, and commence to screaming for the next 9 hours. (Colic sucked, yo.)

Don't get me started on trying to re-enter the workforce after 10 years as a SAHM. I'm still stupid grateful to Google for recognizing that my education had not been flushed away by raising my children. That contract they offered in 2002 opened a lot of doors, and I still cheerfully accept any contract they wave at me.
posted by MissySedai at 1:48 PM on January 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have no problem with requiring businesses to "pay for" maternity leave. I put pay for in scare quotes because the cost is simply... continuing to pay the employee's salary (or some portion thereof) that you would be paying if she/he were not gestating/raising a newborn. Now yes, I know that said company might hire temporary help to cover that workload, but I also know a LOT of companies that don't, that just distribute that extra work on to their existing employees while getting away with a reduction in their labor costs for however many weeks.

Of course it's very possible that it's more efficient or effective or economically sound to have some sort of payroll-funded federal system of leave, which would be fine too. But it just irks me that businesses can get so whiny about what's often not an added expense so much as a lack of a decrease in their labor budget when an employee is on leave.
posted by misskaz at 2:00 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This and the lack of free, quality childcare is a huge tax on women in America, and ultimately hurts everyone.

In what circumstances is the failure to provide a benefit a tax?
posted by layceepee at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2015


In what circumstances is the failure to provide a benefit a tax?

Tax (n): a strain or heavy demand.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:19 PM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


In what circumstances is the failure to provide a benefit a tax?

From where I sit, the failure of our social contract to show compassion for the capability and inevitability of our human bodies to make life while also failing to provide resources to the caregivers of babies, so that all are given the most basic starting point to thrive in the civilization we are all striving to build, is not a failure to provide a benefit, it's a failure of us being human at our most basic level
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:42 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


The lack of paid maternity leave is a failure of us being human at most basic level? Do you think being employed at a wage or salary is part of being human at the most basic level? Were societies where most people survived by dint of their own labor and that of their communiites failing at being human?

And for some of us, it's not inevitable for our human bodies to make life.
posted by layceepee at 5:29 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


layceepee:
In what circumstances is the failure to provide a benefit a tax?
In the same sense that failing to provide affordable health insurance and a place to park when public transportation is not available is a tax.

If the "benefit" is required for a human being to perform a job while maintaining a normal life, it ceases to be a benefit and becomes an essential service the employer must provide, just as they must pay their workers (another "benefit").
posted by IAmBroom at 5:47 PM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


If the "benefit" is required for a human being to perform a job while maintaining a normal life, it ceases to be a benefit and becomes an essential service the employer must provide, just as they must pay their workers (another "benefit").

Well, food and clothing are essential, but the failure to provide them free is not typically described as a tax. I am not arguing against the social benefit or ethical obligation for people to take care of one another, but I don't see the point in claiming that anything that isn't paid for by an employer or the government represents a tax.

That seems to discard a useful and generally understood meaning of what it is to collect or impose a tax (a levy imposed by government to collect revenue it uses to fund services) and replace it with some barely comprehensible notion.
posted by layceepee at 6:36 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is a transferred tax. By "inevitable" I mean "babies will be had". I'm not talking to any specific person and what they choose to do or not to with their bodies. For me , pro choice means also respecting people who choose to have babies and living in a society that as a whole understands and cares about that aspect as well.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:57 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I manage the PTO for my team of 30 people at work, and I've had 3 conversations with new fathers over the past year, patiently explaining that no, there is no paid paternity leave available for them to use.

All 3 of them were shocked, because they knew from listening to Fox News/their father-in-law/talk radio that Obamacare is wasting tax payers money by forcing companies to provide maternity & paternity leave, at least two weeks worth! And if the Feds were going to take money from their paychecks, they were going to get something out of it.

I never tell people how to vote, but I did suggest to one man who had already blown through his vacation for the year that he should turn off the propaganda channels and start getting information from credible sources before making big life decisions like having babies with no paid leave stocked up.
posted by lootie777 at 6:58 PM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Ain't so often your country lags behind Saudi Arabia on a social issue. Very impressive USA!
posted by jeffburdges at 2:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Paternity leave is important too. (Hear me out on this, because I know how it probably looks.)

you're totally right, and to toot Canada's horn again, what the government offers doesn't specify which parent can take the leave

Jesus Christ, is that worth tooting the horn about? Then let me toot to you how things work in Sweden:

With every child, parental leave is offered for 480 days (~16 months) with 80% of the parent's income, up to a certain level. It's all tax-funded. Of those days, 60 are tied to each parent and cannot be used by the other one. This is known as "pappamånader" or "dad months", meant to encourage a more equal division of the child care between parents. Still today, only 25% of the parental leave is still used by fathers and the rest by mothers, but it's steadily increasing and among educated middle-class parents it's a social blemish not to split the time at least somewhat equally.

The thing is, making fathers stay home with their children is widely considered as the most important way to improve gender equality across the board. It allows women to take part as fully as men in the workforce also after having children, which in turn helps narrowing the pay gap and reducing all kinds of gender discrimination on and off the job market. It also and uproots old truths about who should take on which role in a family, allowing fathers and mothers alike to be happier. Those things are beneficial for the present generation of parents, but a perhaps even more important effect is that the next generation of Swedes does not get to associate caretaking tasks as being done by mothers and moneymaking tasks as being done by fathers.

Paternity leave is very much a feminist issue, and one of the main goals of the dedicated Feminist Party in Sweden is to force an equal split of the leave days.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 2:58 AM on January 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


As much as I love the US, this, employment practices in general and health system mean I could never live there.

You forgot policing, but yeah, me too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:26 AM on January 28, 2015


There are some questionable numbers in that first Business Week article. I am not trying to undermine the argument that maternity leave reform is needed but I'm sharing this because nonsense numbers did not help my case in my discussion yesterday. I tried to share this stat: "Paid leave is even rarer: Only 12 percent of American workers have access to it in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics." The response I got was "What? More than 12% of the population lives in states with maternity leave," which is true. Here's a link [PDF] to a census publication with some numbers on maternity leave. The numbers from there are, of women who worked during their pregnancy, 45% had some kind of paid leave after birth, 35% specifically had maternity leave. This will surprise no one but paid leave is very much associated with education level: 66% of women with a bachelors used paid leave, 19% of women with less than a high school degree did. Argh, I can't stand that the US manages to tie to employment things that any country that deserves to be called developed should provide for all it's residents. I understand that this happened because of wage caps during WWII but, damn, maybe we could have improved things a bit since the 1940s.
posted by carolr at 8:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


layceepee: Well, food and clothing are essential, but the failure to provide them free is not typically described as a tax.
OK, technically speaking a "tax" is not the appropriate description of this.

"An unfair and inherently misogynist burden" is probably more accurate.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Related: Pittsburgh councilmember Natalia Rudiak is sponsoring a bill to extend paid parental leave to all (nonunion) city staff.
Her remarks in Council last week

Post-Gazette story
Tribune-Review story

The latter newspaper is editorially more conservative, but both sets of commenters are sadly pretty equally oh-fuck-no-not-with-my-money...

of course, most of them don't actually f^&*ing live in the city, but anyway....
posted by FlyingMonkey at 6:29 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't read the comments FM, you should know better than that.
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Labor Pains - "More women than ever are having babies at the peak of their careers. When will we stop punishing them for it?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:26 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


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