Too many new moms have to choose between caring for a newborn and holding down a paycheck. Working Mother’s new campaign for universal paid parental leave aims to help change that.
When it comes to new moms, the United States is really a cut below. We are among just a handful of countries that do not offer universal paid maternity leave for new mothers — something that 178 nations already do, including some of the poorest.
This situation isn’t new. Today, only about half of all first-time moms in the United States are able to take any paid maternity leave after childbirth; and just a fifth of working women with young children receive leave with full pay, according to a review of the most recent Census data by the Washington-based advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families. Nor is the situation getting better. A Families and Work Institute report found that only 16 percent of the companies it surveyed offered fully paid maternity leave in 2008, down from 27 percent in 1998.
What is new is Working Mother’s campaign for change. Our goal is ambitious: to ensure paid parental leave is available to all U.S. workers by 2015, our 30th anniversary year of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies.
“This campaign is essential to the health of all working families,” says Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media. “It’s also critical to the economic health of our companies and our nation. Our ability to compete in the global marketplace depends upon the energy, intelligence and commitment our mothers and fathers bring to the workplace every day—qualities that are built off a strong family foundation.”
Every single Working Mother 100 Best Company offers paid maternity leave, while 76 percent offer paid paternity leave and 79 percent offer paid adoption leave. At Working Mother we believe that is a standard that should be available to all new working parents. We know it can work; in fact, it already does: California and New Jersey already offer paid leave programs that cover birth, adoption, foster placement or leave to care for a sick immediate family member. “Both states have set up what’s basically a social insurance system, like unemployment insurance,” says Bob Drago, research director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C., “and it’s 100 percent funded by employees.”
(Read more about how paid parental leave can work in our feature: Everyone but U.S.
Working moms represent 25 million people in the United States. Add in the working dads and you have a powerful coalition that can make real change. That’s why we’ve joined with the National Partnership for Women and Families to launch a petition campaign to make paid parental leave universally available to U.S. workers by 2012. Make your voice heard and sign our petition today!
Jennifer Owens is Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine and Director of the Working Mother Research Institute.