A recent conversation with my boss about the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) quickly turned into a heated, but friendly (after all he is my boss), discussion about the rights of women to take time off of work for the purpose of birthing and caring for children.
Of course I was on the side of women and babies, in the belief that we need more time than the federal law allows (12 weeks) and that the 12 weeks should be guaranteed paid leave. That being said, in my view point, before being able to receive this benefit you had to have worked full time for your employer for over a year. My boss was on the side of the employer debating the impact it has to a company, (large and small), when women leave work for an extended period of time to have children. In his view he related how a company has to hire an additional person to fill in as the work still needs to get done. The complications stemming from hiring a person and then what to do with that person once the permanent employee returns. The time it takes to recruit, interview and hire a person to take the place of the employee while they are on extended leave. Bring up the fact that I thought the leave should be guaranteed and paid added additional heat to the conversation. Although we both agreed that the leave should be guaranteed for either parent as maybe the father would like to stay home instead of the mother.
The FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for women who have children. If women want to get paid during this time they have to use accrued leave first and then are able to claim short term disability (if offered by their company). Many companies have different policies on how you get the 12 weeks but the 12 weeks unpaid cannot be denied.
In order to get this 12 weeks paid however, you must get several things set up. There is one caveat though, your doctor has to write a recommendation letter for your company & insurance carrier to get the time off and short term disability started. This is if you are taking leave and using short term disability. It has been my experience most OB/GYNs will only write the letter for 6 weeks time off for natural delivery and 8 weeks for a cesarean section, as that is the standard in our country. Even though the law states up to 12 weeks. You have to have mitigating issues to get anything longer in than 6 or 8 weeks if you want it paid through insurance. The letter is also written within a day or so of the women giving birth therefore, only looking at the medical, not chemical, hormonal or emotional, recovery from birthing. This determination does not look at the care for the baby.
Things a women should look at before accepting a job at a future employer if they plan to have children in the immediate future:
- Does the employer have a short term disability benefit? Long term disability will not do as that does not kick in till the 91st day, typically.
- Does the employer have work life balance policies? This would indicate support for families.
- What is the policy for being able to use the short term disability for a new mom, i.e. do you have to work for the employer for a year, two years?
- Does the employer have a designated area for breastfeeding mothers?
- Also, when you become pregnant and are looking for a good OB ask them what their policy is on writing the recovery time, i.e. will they write a script for the full 12 weeks.
Without doubt, I do understand the impact to a company when a parent has to take time off to care for a newborn. I also realize someone else has to do their job during the absence. As my boss so eloquently pointed out. That being stated I would like to think, most employers recognize the quality of life issues presented here and realize the benefits of a happy, therefore, more productive work force. The loyalty gained from a workforce when the employer provides family life supporting benefits are immeasurable.
When does it become an issue for social responsibility? Isn’t it of benefit to the corporations/companies in our Country and our Country as a whole, that a mother be able to care for her small child early on to give them the best possible chance at success in life. Therefore, creating a more stable child who grows into a more stable adult eager to take on the work for the next generation. Although, 12 weeks, if you can get it, is not enough time to spend nurturing a new baby before placing them in our daycare system, I’ll save my comments on that for another blog. I think we can all agree that a newborn, in most cases, would get a better start in life being cared for by their mother and not a stranger.
I also realize that many mothers do not have the option of taking unpaid leave or staying home with their children and rely heavily on our daycare system, nannies and in home care providers. That being said, I would just hope our laws change to make it easier on our American families to have more options.
178 countries out of 195 in the world (South Sudan will not be a country until sometime in July, 2011) have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers, while the handful of exceptions include the U.S. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41721787/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/ Why isn’t FMLA for 12 weeks paid maternity leave guaranteed? Isn’t that the least we can do for our next generation?