Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced on Wednesday a proposal to double the time for paid maternity leave and other family friendly incentives that will attract and keep top-performing women.
"Some of the initiatives aimed at retaining women include doubling paid maternity leave to 12 weeks, longer child-care hours, an updated co-location policy for dual military couples and opportunities like the career intermission program, which allows sailors to take time off to pursue educational or other personal goals," USA Today reported.
These proposed incentives stand in stark contrast with the parental leave options offered by most organizations and companies in the United States. Recently released reports show that the U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two nations to not guarantee paid maternity leave for working mothers, while Hungary and Slovakia give 160 or more paid weeks of leave, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Among nations in the OECD, the U.S. ranks lowest with zero weeks of paid leave guaranteed for working mothers. Every other nation-member of the OECD, as well as Latvia and Lithuania, which are not members, guarantees at least 12 weeks of paid leave.
Slovakia offers the most paid parental leave, with 164 weeks guaranteed, according to the OECD.
For working women in the U.S., potential repercussions like that of being moved in the company or let go, are serious worries when requesting maternity leave, Bloomberg reported.
John Oliver, host of "Last Week Tonight," spoke on Mother's Day about how lack of guaranteed maternity leave can cause problems for American families. He delved into the effects it can have on working women's careers, well-being and families.
"In America, there is nothing we wouldn't do for moms — apart from one major thing," which is paid maternity leave, Oliver said in the clip that attracted a lot of attention online.
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually in the U.S. for those who have worked for their employer at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the most recent 12 months.
FMLA applies to workers at all government agencies and schools nationwide, as well as private companies with 50 or more employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In January, legislation was introduced in Congress that would give federal workers six weeks of paid leave related to the birth or adoption of a child, the Washington Post reported.
"This bill will go a long way toward creating a more family friendly workplace, which is needed by America's workers. In addition to reducing turnover, paid parental leave can lead to increased productivity, better morale and reduced absenteeism," said National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen Kelley, in a statement.
Unpaid maternity leave will likely become more of a workplace issue since more women are becoming the breadwinners for their families. Forty percent of all households in the U.S. with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to the Pew Research Center.
Paternity leave for fathers is also something parents are fighting for. Advocates say that allowing men to take leave could not only help working mothers with the task of taking care of a new child, but also change the stigmatizing of women's availability and ability in the work environment.
Paid leave for parents when children are born is not the only leave not guaranteed in the U.S. Parents are also not guaranteed any paid vacation days, which are often the days parents use when unable to obtain enough parental leave, or care for sick children.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, every developed nation besides the U.S. provides anywhere from 10 to 30 paid vacation days, with many also offering paid holidays.
Vox reported that the center also found that the U.S. is one of 22 developed countries with no guarantee of paid sick days, either.
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