Why is it that the United States is one of the few countries that does not offer guaranteed maternity leave to parents? (We won’t talk about how it’s unpaid just yet.) In a country considered so far ahead of the rest of the world this is just dumb. Dumb as in, I won’t insert more enlightened vocabulary here to justify such travesty, but I digress… According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), “…eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave…” Eligible here means public entities and those private entities with more than 50 employees. If that doesn’t automatically exclude you, don’t worry because you also have to work at least 1,250 hours in a year, have at least 50 coworkers in a 75 mile radius, oh and work for your company at least 12 months unconsecutively (thank God!). (DOL)
If you can’t see the irony in this information, I’ll shower you with a little more knowledge, just a little because I don’t want your head to explode. In the U.S this leave is only for 12 weeks and must be used within a 12 month period. Now let’s look to our neighbors in the North to see how they fare. Their leave is 8 weeks unpaid for use in a 26 week time frame, any job type (full-time, part-time, temporary or permanent), and most importantly no stipulation on the number of employees or how long the employee must work with the company to receive such benefits. (Ontario Ministry of Labour, 2015) On top of that, “Family medical leave may be taken to provide care or support to certain family members and people who consider the employee to be like a family member…” (Take that US!) (MOL, 2015).
The reason that the US can’t get it right is really for lack of understanding that the family structure is not just what is written into the law. The family includes same sex couples, relatives caring for other relatives, close friends, adopted children, etc. We need to expand our views on family so that we can better take care of ourselves and our fellow citizens. Until that day of reckoning most Americans, like myself, will have bittersweet feelings about going out on FMLA to have their baby with no income. Atleast my job is protected, right?
Ministry of Labour. (2015, October 1). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/
United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/