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How Lack of Paid Maternity Leave Worsens Inequality

As many have seen covered in news headlines recently, America is one of only three countries in the world that does not guarantee paid time off for new parents, as an estimated 13 percent of workers have access to paid leave through their employers. This results in many women only taking two weeks or less off from work after having a baby. Others take between four to 10 weeks, less than half receiving a salary during that time.

“Desperate Financial Necessity”

The individual stories behind these women are, at times, horrifying; some going back to work directly from the hospital, even before C-section wounds are properly healed. This is nothing short of an indication of, as one reporter calls it, “desperate financial necessity.”

Class Disparity

A 2012 survey found that 80 percent of college grads were able to take at least six weeks off, while only 54 percent without degrees did so.

We recently wrote about companies starting to offer competitive paid family time off packages. While this is a step in the right direction, it also only promises to increase the disparity between what some employees receive versus others. Even within those companies, some employees are receiving more paid time off than others, turning this issue into a wealthy versus poor phenomenon. This is exacerbated when you look at other forms of paid leave—such as vacation and sick time—and the ability to use this paid time off for family leave.

Even Unpaid Leave Is Unavailable

Many would be shocked to find out that even unpaid leave isn’t an option for many Americans. The Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to companies with more than 50 employees that have been there for at least one year (part-time workers excluded). This comes out to less than one fifth of all new mothers.

For those who are able to keep their jobs, many still have to borrow money, use their savings, and avoid paying bills. In fact, for many, the beginning of poverty starts with the birth of a child.

The Result

The result of this system is many low-income mothers forced out of the workplace. Not only are they much more likely to quit their jobs upon the birth of their first child, but also more likely to be fired by employers when they have a baby. This is the only option for many, particularly when the cost of child care exceeds annual salary total.

Studies have also shown that paid maternity leave is linked to lower neonatal and infant mortality rates. In the U.S., poor mothers have double the rates of postpartum depression and are more than twice as likely to have their babies die within the first year.

Contact Us for Assistance with Family Law Issues

Whether you need advice on putting together a parenting plan, seek custody, or establish parenting rights, we can help you through the process. Please contact Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. to schedule a consultation. We represent parents in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and throughout Broward County.

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