U.S. maternity leave trails other countries, and going away may not mean 'out of the office'

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26 2013 9:00 a.m. MST

"It’s hard to overstate the role technology has played in blurring the lines of our professional and personal lives," writes Jena McGregor, a Post reporter. "Between the prevalence of working remotely, telecommuting, and emailing from smartphones at night and on weekends, being 'out of the office' no longer means what it once did. If employers expect people to respond from vacation — and surveys show many do — can expecting the same from someone on maternity leave be that far behind?"

McGregor points out, though, that legal experts and others say as often as not it is the employee on leave, not the boss, who introduces the interruption. “My No. 1 observation is that the professional employee is 10 times more likely than the employer to be pushing for communication,” Garry Mathiason, chairman of the global employment law firm Littler Mendelson, told her. “The assumption might be that the employer is trying to squeeze work out, but I’ve found that the employee — especially a professional looking at advancement — is incredibly reluctant to give up control.”

Paid parental leave has been somewhat controversial, with many different views on whether it's economically feasible or should be the responsibility of the government, employers, neither or both. It's a topic that is likely to get more attention under the Obama administration, which as early as 2009 supported options to provide paid family leave under different situations — not just the birth of a child.

The Huffington Post has put together a graphic looking at paid parental leave around the world.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco