Why Must Mothers Choose Between Work and Baby?

The first weeks with a newborn baby are difficult at best and excruciating at worst. Sleepless nights, recovering from labor and delivery (or a cesarean), and, quite simply, figuring it all out wear down new parents.

Now throw in the stress of losing income, something highlighted as part of Maternity Leave Week on dailyworth.com.

Yes, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave in a 12-month period, but there are stipulations, such as having to work for a company with 50 or more employees and having to be employed there at least one year.

Since FMLA’s inception in 1993, American men and women have used it more than 200 million times, the National Partnership for Women & Families estimates.

Offering paid leave puts a financial strain on small companies, admits Erinn Bucklan and Julia Sonenshein, but what excuse does that give 29 Fortune 500 companies that provide zero dedicated, 100-percent paid maternity leave?

The truth is that the United States is far behind the rest of the globe when it comes to recognizing parenthood as a viable reason to miss time in the office.

Incredibly, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave. — Elaine Eisenman, CNN.com

Why is this such a big deal?

For families, the obvious big deal involves added financial (and therefore emotional) strain, but there is a piece of this that hurts companies as well.

In early August, Netflix announced that it would be offering one year of unlimited, paid parental leave for its employees, something rare in a country of 12-week unpaid leave. It may appear as though Netflix loses a great deal of money in this decision, but a deeper look would suggest otherwise.

First, companies like Netflix will attract up-and-coming stars in the recruitment process.

This is a simple equation: Talented people – both men and women – stay in jobs where they feel their needs are understood and their employer is committed to doing the best it can to ensure they can contribute at the highest level.

Second, companies will maintain morale in employees who feel as though their needs are being met by an employer that truly cares.

From a business perspective, the return on investment in building employee commitment and productivity is truly priceless.

It is time for all employers to realize that companies such as Netflix aren’t simply generous. Rather, they are shrewd in redefining the competitive playing field for talent. In truth, the only unbeatable point of differentiation in the marketplace is talented people, and talented people flock to companies that support their goals, both professionally and personally.

For non-Fortune 500 companies, the answer to this problem undoubtedly lies in the grey area between zero paid leave and a year of fully-paid leave, but the key is to begin engaging over a solution.


Read our article on maternity leave “When Should I Go On Maternity Leave?

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