Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Paid Maternity Leave Debate in U.S. Sounds Like Teen Lament
The parental response for decades remains the same: If you all your friends jumped off a cliff, should we let you do that?” Much of the talk about maternity leave pay in the U.S. sounds eerily familiar to this common teenage lament.
And like this lament, there is a built in preconception that there is only one right answer, when an alternative does exist. And the focus on the lament obscures the alternative, causing millions to miss out on an important benefit.
Does this sound like a spoiled teenager to you?
The Human Rights Watch recently published a report entitled “"Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US." The facts and the implications are not in dispute. Only 11 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave. Many who take an unpaid leave are forced to take on debt and find themselves in a financial bind.
The U.S. is one of only a handful of industrialized nations without a comprehensive government mandated paid maternity leave policy. “At least 178 countries have national laws that guarantee paid leave for new mothers, and more than 50 also guarantee paid leave for new fathers. More than 100 countries offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave for new mothers.”
The presupposition that government mandated paid leave is the right answer is rarely disputed. Everyone else is doing it. It must be the right thing to do. Does this sound familiar? Why isn't an alternative discussed? Most other articles published in the media follow the same pattern.
Which gets me to the main point: an alternative to government mandate maternity pay is available today in the U.S. through a private sector solution. But this fact is almost always overlooked by those seeking to expand government reach, and impose their values on others. The discussion centers on what the government does or does not do, and ignores a solution already in existence.
Omission hurts families; grows government
This omission does huge harm to the population most at risk: young couples with growing families. The private insurance marketplace provides short term disability which covers mom’s normal pregnancy and maternity leave, along with time missed from work due to complications. The problem is that this population is almost completely unaware that the solution is right at their fingertips.
Coverage must begin before getting pregnant. We field untold emails and phone calls from women who are already pregnant who are desperate for maternity leave income. They were totally unaware that coverage even existed until it was too late.
Why can't the media cover this story instead? Millions of families would fare so much better. It seems the expansion of government is more important than the protection of families.