Being a woman in the workplace has its challenges. Women are paid less than men, looked over for promotions, sometimes not heard, but women continue to shine. There are several books written to help women maneuver in the workplace. Lean In, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, The Memo, Secrets of Six-Figure Women and the list goes on and on. I mean really what is the problem with females having a career? Now I can take this discussion several different places on this topic, but I am going to talk about something that women discuss with each other and struggle with when starting a career – starting a family…..
Have you ever been sitting at your desk thinking about starting a family and then the fear of losing your job takes over and consumes your thoughts? Now you’re worried about the looks, being treated differently, not being taken seriously, and losing your job. I have had friends go on maternity leave and people begin to say things like, “I wonder if she’s coming back? How long is she going to be gone? Who’s taking on her responsibilities?” REALLY SHE JUST HAD A BABY! All of these things go through a woman’s mind and causes a lot of stress.
Let’s fast forward, you (or one of your friends don’t freak out) just confirmed that you are pregnant. You are so excited and ready for the next chapter. Now you go to the office and begin working on the calendar of events. Doctor appointments, sick leave, business trips, the birth of your child, etc. Here comes the bomb, your organization only allows two weeks for maternity leave. Sidebar: I know the laws so let’s just say in this scenario you work for a private company with less than 50 employees. Now you are concerned about caring for your child, possibly looking for another job (try that while pregnant), maybe become a stay at home mom (in some instances this is the only option because don’t get me started on the cost of daycare). My goodness what have you gotten yourself into?
Did you know that 25% of US women return to work in less than two weeks after giving birth? Emphasis on US!! Three countries do not guarantee paid maternity leave (yep you guessed it the US is on that very short list). Okay last one, there are only 13% of private sector workers that have access to paid family leave for family emergencies or a new child. This is unbelievable I mean we are supposed to the the home of the free and the land of the brave – but you better not get pregnant LOL. Okay I kid (no pun intended), but this is BS. Now if you happen to work for a large corporation with full-time employees or the public sector and have worked there for at least a year, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies. This is a great law but let’s talk about this for a minute.
Under FMLA an employee is guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of losing their job. If your employer offers health benefits, they have to continue providing them as if you were working. Did you catch that I said unpaid? Insert side eye now! This is a federal law, but each state may have different laws about paid family leave. For instance, in 2016 New York passed a 12 week paid family leave program which will also protect the employee’s job. Seven states and Washington DC have passed paid family leave programs as well. But like I stated earlier, each state is different.
There are a few proposals floating around on the federal level in regards to paid family leave. Trump’s FY2018 budget proposes six weeks of paid leave to mothers and fathers, which White House officials project would cost $25 billion over 10 years. This program would be run through the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, paid for via reforms to the UI system, and would require states to build up and run paid leave programs through their own UI systems.
Here’s another one, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act has been proposed in the House and Senate to establish 60 days of paid leave at a wage replacement rate of 66%, using a 0.2% payroll tax on employees and employers.
Last one, an alternative House proposal to paid leave would allow employees to make contributions to tax-free savings accounts, which could then be used when the employee takes parental leave. Similar legislation was also proposed in Oregon and Minnesota.
Well guess what’s going on in Canada? Depending on the length of employment history and the hours worked, new mothers can take up to 63 weeks (there are 52 weeks in a year) of leave from their jobs. Oh and the employee’s job is protected. But wait there’s more, on top of the mandatory leave, a pregnant employee or new mother can take a paid maternity leave of up to 15 weeks. Either the mother or father can take 35 weeks of parental leave after the baby is born or adopted. The parents can share the leave however they choose. This is being run through Canada’s employment insurance plan. REALLY, this gives a whole new meaning to THE NORTH (Game of Thrones geek here).
Needless to say, women have a lot to think about in regards to having a career. When are we ever going to make changes to the culture in the US? Seriously is 12 weeks enough time, this would mean your child is going to daycare and they are only three months young. I’m pretty sure there are scientific studies that prove the baby needs more time with the mother. Don’t get me started on the mental side of things for the mother that doesn’t have a choice. SMH we can do better. I’m done!