This week San Francisco became a first. They became the first city in the U.S. to require businesses with 20 or more employees to offer six weeks of fully paid parental leave for new parents.
For those of us not at the stage of life where parental leave is something on our radar at the moment, this might seem irrelevant to you.
But let me put this new legislation in perspective.
The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries in the world that do not require any paid time off for new mothers. If that doesn’t make you cringe, know that according to a PBS NewsHour, paid family leave is up to 16 weeks in the Netherlands, 52 weeks in Denmark, almost 70 in Sweden and 12 in Burundi. All of these places seem to take a pause when a tiny human is born. But why not the U.S.? What’s the hold up?
Only since 1993 has the U.S. had the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave—for workers at firms of 50 or more employees.
There’s a theme here. $$$
Would it really kill companies to grant a few weeks of free work to new parents? In the grand scheme of the companies, 6 weeks is just an inch in time. Can’t they find a way to make it up or survive for a little while without the work of that person? Something tells me, yes, they could find a way. And in San Francisco, companies will be finding a way.
Women are such an asset to many companies and making them choose between a family and their job strictly because of a cash flow, seems a little messed up. Once you push a woman out of the job market while she has kids, she is much less likely to return to the playing field. But if you grant her some grace, the story is quite different.
I’d like to think this attitude of profits and getting ahead as the only thing on company’s minds is just a myth. But lately in the U.S., I’m not so sure. If I have kids someday, I sure hope this country will have caught up with the rest of the world so I don’t have to choose between all that I’m working for now and what I hope to be working for before too long.
Read PBS’s coverage on this issue here.
Cover photo credits here.