- Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a handful do not have a national paid parental leave law, such as New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific Island nations, and the U.S.
- In the US, this is starting to change. In recent years, Microsoft, Netflix, Walmart, and even the U.S. federal government have expanded their paid parental leave policies for new moms and dads.
- Estonia offers more than a year and a half of paid leave for working mothers – by far the highest benefit provided by any country.
Some parents (mainly fathers) have lobbied Congress for national paid family leave legislation. The U.S. currently has none, and is the world’s only industrialized nation not to offer paid maternity or paternity leave.
A cultural shift might be on the verge of happening, and some employers are starting to pay attention and take action. In recent years, Microsoft, Netflix, Walmart, and even the U.S. federal government have expanded their paid parental leave policies for new moms and dads.
Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a handful do not have a national paid parental leave law, such as New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific Island nations, and the U.S. In comparison, Estonia offers more than a year and a half of paid leave for working mothers – by far the highest benefit provided by any country.
Where are working parents seeing the best paid time off?
- Estonia has 86 weeks of paid leave for working mothers, while fathers are given very little paternal leave.
- Hungary gives over 70 paid weeks of leave to mothers.
- Bulgaria gives about 65 weeks of paid maternity leave.
- Lithuania provides over 60 weeks of maternity leave.
- Japan gives about 35 weeks of paid maternity leave.
- In Japan, almost half of all the available paid leave for new parents – 30 weeks – is allocated for new fathers. Yet very few fathers (1 in 20) actually use it.
- In Korea, men are allotted the equivalent of about 15 weeks of paid leave.
- Portugal, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Iceland all offer about two months of leave or more to new dads.
Why is maternity/paternity leave important?
Paid parental leave improves maternal health and family economic security.
Research shows that paid parental leave policies significantly improve maternal physical and mental health by allowing mothers time to recover from childbirth and adjust to new caregiving responsibilities.
About half of women report experiencing pain within the first two months following childbirth, and many experience more serious, potentially life-threatening postpartum complications.
A substantial majority of new mothers experience hormonal sadness after childbirth, and for about 1 in 5 women, that sadness develops into postpartum depression. Mothers who take paid family leave are less likely to experience symptoms of postpartum depression and less likely to report parenting stress.
Paid parental leave also improves household economic security for families in the year following the birth of a child. California’s paid family leave program lowered the risk of poverty among mothers of infants by 10.2% and increased household income for those mothers by 4.1%.
Research shows that paternity leave is associated with greater relationship stability, increased gender equity, and increased family finances.
When fathers take leave, it reduces the burden on the mother and strengthens parental relationships.
Studies also show that a father’s increased involvement in baby care can mitigate maternal postpartum-depression outcomes. A study of how paternity leave affects maternal postpartum depression showed that a lack of paternal involvement was a significant predictor of the intensity of depressive symptoms.
Most U.S. companies don’t offer paid paternity leave, and 70% of fathers who do take it are back to work in just ten days or less, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Many men believe that taking time off to care for a new family member looks like they are not fully committed to their job and that it will harm their careers.
Research by Harrington suggests the opposite.
Men who take a more equal role in family caregiving, including taking paternity leave, report greater levels of satisfaction with their jobs and careers. That benefits their employer as well.
Harrington also found that substantial paid leave builds employee loyalty and plays an important role in attracting and retaining talent.
Three-quarters of employees said they’re more likely to stay with their current employer because of its parental leave policy, and 90% of managers said parental leave is an important tool for employee recruitment and retention.
Is the percentage of women in the workforce higher or lower in countries with the best maternity leave?
According to The World Bank, women share 46.3% of the total labor force in the U.S.
In Estonia, women make up 48.5% of the labor force.
In Hungary, women make up 45.2% of the labor force.
In Japan, women make up 44.3% of the labor force.
Although the U.S. has almost the same percentage of female workers as other countries with the best paid maternity leave, the U.S. does not compare in that respect.
Excluding the United States, countries that have the highest female workforce percentage have the best benefits and paid maternity leave. These countries realize that women are essential to the workforce and are being proactive in retaining them.
As research shows, women are invaluable to the workforce and make up a huge portion of it. If companies want to be successful and retain their female workers, they will need to provide appropriate paid parental leave.
What can companies do to ensure women re-enter the workforce after going on maternity leave?
Many women face many obstacles when attempting to return to work after having children, but there are steps companies can take to ensure women not only can come back to work, but are properly accommodated.
- Ensure that schedules can be made flexible for new mothers
- Be more accepting of gaps in women’s resumes
- Offer extended maternity and paternity leave