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Infographic: Mapping Paid Maternity Leave in the U.S. and Around the World

FMLA, paid maternity leave, US maternity leave laws, maternity leave, paid newborn care, protect mothers, mothers rights, breastfeeding rights, workplace rights, national maternity leave, paid maternity national, usa family leave laws, usa maternity laws

The new maternity leave infographic [8] by ThinkProgress [9] is awesome and informative, yet ultimately depressing. Not that this is ground breaking depressing news, but we do love how point blank the statistics look in this colorful map. In case you didn’t know, for years the United States has held the distinction of being the one and only industrialized nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave [10] for parents of newborns. We earned this discouraging space in the world back in June 2010 when Australia passed a maternity leave law [11] guaranteeing many parents 18 weeks of maternity leave at the federal minimum wage. Australia had been resisting paid leave for a long while, but finally got on board, and when they did, the U.S. was left alone in their horrid treatment [12] of new parents. Basically, if you’re considering raising a family in the U.S., good luck getting any sort of financial support.

FMLA, paid maternity leave, US maternity leave laws, maternity leave, paid newborn care, protect mothers, mothers rights, breastfeeding rights, workplace rights, national maternity leave, paid maternity national, usa family leave laws, usa maternity laws
Image by Flickr User http://www.victoriajohnson.co.uk

How the Rest of the World Handles Maternity Leave

Obviously the U.S. is not the only location on the planet with sucky maternity paid leave laws, but we’re one of just a few. In one report the International Labour Organization [13] (ILO) looked at 167 countries and found that 97% offer some sort of paid leave to parents. The exceptions are Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and yup, the United States. On top of this insanity, the laws the U.S. does have in place to protect new parents are super shabby. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act [14] (FMLA) U.S. workers are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for newborn care. However, anyone working for someone with fewer than 50 paid employees is exempt [15] and just 17% of U.S. workers report access to actual paid leave via company choice to offer it. In other countries, families fare far better. For example…

FMLA, paid maternity leave, US maternity leave laws, maternity leave, paid newborn care, protect mothers, mothers rights, breastfeeding rights, workplace rights, national maternity leave, paid maternity national, usa family leave laws, usa maternity laws
Image by Flickr User houghtonbirds

Recommended Maternity Leave Rules

Conclusions gleamed at the 98th International Labour Conference in June 2009 pointed out that strengthened maternity protection is key to gender equality at work and helps promote healthy women and babies. ILO notes that leave should be a bare minimum of 14 weeks and that cash benefits need to be at a level which ensures that any woman can maintain herself and her child in proper conditions of health and with a suitable standard of living. Other recommendations point out that maternity protection for women workers contributes to the overall health and well-being of mothers and their babies, thus protects overall health for countries on a larger scale. ILO notes that the key elements of any decent maternity protection laws should consist of the following…

The United States meets exactly zero of the above recommendations. That’s just sad. If you want to make a positive difference for families in the U.S., it’s best to get involved at the state level. Some states, including California, New Jersey and Washington have already enacted paid leave laws. You can also sign the Working Mother’s petition [19] and check out the best U.S. companies for working women [20]. If you’re an employer read how to create a maternity leave plan [21].

+ Healthy beginnings: Guidance on safe maternity at work (pdf) [22]

+ Maternity at Work – A Review of National Legislation (pdf) [23]

Lead Image Infographic by ThinkProgress [9]