I agree with maternity leave in general, but I have no idea how long it should last for.
It’s better then new mothers bringing the babies to work, though.
For decades, workers, especially men, have been able to take extended unpaid leaves from their jobs while the job is held for them. This includes military leave and medical leave, such as for heart attacks and heart surgery, other kinds of surgery and to recover from accidents (more likely among men). But when it was suggested that WOMEN get similar kinds of leave for pregnancy and childbirth, and to care for family members, suddenly people were up in arms about how it will ruin industry and society in general.
There is little cost to allowing unpaid leaves. The specific job doesn’t even have to be held open, only that a similar job be offered upon the worker’s return.
Women have historically stepped up to the plate to do the work men have taken leaves from. Men in the military have been the most notorious example. During WWII, women by the thousands did men’s jobs and did them well, and at far less pay! But when the men returned from service, they got their jobs back and the women were summarily laid off. There were few complaints about this turn of events at the time. This was seen as a necessity at the time but somehow too few people think unpaid leave for pregnancy is a similar necessity. To extend a sentiment about abortion, “If men could get pregnant maternity leave would be a sacrament.”
But when it was decided to give women unpaid leave for pregnancy, suddenly it is seen as too much of a burden to industry and society.
Somehow there is nothing like giving women their due to get people riled up over something that has been going on for decades for men with no serious opposition.
Lois when it comes to men and women, most health issues are treated the same. If you are ill or disabled you get the same amount of time off regardless of gender.
The difference with pregnancy is that the amount of time a woman takes off has less to do with her need to recover from the medical condition and more to do with her desire to spend time with her new child so its not entirely unreasonable for society to take a different approach to pregnancy than we do to a heart attack. In addition, pregnancy unlike a heart attack or illness is a choice and I think that affects peoples attitudes rightly or wrongly, but I think it does justify the need for a different sort of discussion.
Your comment about the cost of leave to a company needs to be qualified. It really depends a lot on the size of the company and the type of employee. The temporary loss of a member of the maintenance staff of a large company probably would have very little effect on the company. The job is not a key position, it doesn’t require a lot of training, and that employee’s efforts contribute only a small amount to the overall output of a huge company. On the other hand the absence of a highly trained key employee of a small company could be devastating or at the very least would have a marked effect on the workings and productivity of the company. Its not easy to just hire a temp to fill in for someone who has specialized skills,knowledge or relationships especially if she is the only one in the company with those skills or knowledge.
I think its also important to clarify something here. we are all talking about maternity leave as though its a monolithic national policy when in fact its far from that. There is paid and unpaid leave. Unpaid leave is governed by the FMLA and protects workers who need extended time off for any medical or family need. It does not require employers to pay the employee but does require them to keep the employee’s job open during the time period covered by the FMLA. It does not apply to small companies because legislators realized that the burden on small companies might be onerous if they had to comply with the same regulations.
Paid leave can come in two varieties. State disability insurance affords all women 4 weeks for a vaginal delivery and 6 for a c-section. This is not employer controlled. Every employed individual is entitled to this benefit in the U.S.. In addition to disability coverage, each company may have its own maternity benefits which may be more generous than what the state disability program offers in which case the sky is the limit in some cases and there may be no provision at all in others.
Obviously unpaid leave is less controversial when we are discussing extended maternity leave. Paid leave which is provided by the government and which we all pay for must be acceptable to society as a whole. I think it would be unfair to ask everyone to pay more so mothers could have 6 months off at full pay for example when we are asking the public to pay for it but we seem to all agree that 4-6 weeks is reasonable so this is what has been allowed. Private companies can of course offer more if they choose and that is entirely up to them.