Paid family leave policies are expanding, but are new mothers actually taking time off?
Posted by admin on 23rd January 2017
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The recent presidential campaign reminded us that the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries that doesn’t require companies to provide paid maternity leave.

Maternity leave is important. One of the key reasons is because medical researchers have shown overwhelmingly positive effects when parents are able to spend time with their newborn children.

Fortunately, in the past year a number of major companies announced amazing improvements in maternity and paternity leave policy. Chobani, the yogurt company, began giving six weeks of paid leave to all employees, including those working on the factory floor. Then Ikea, the large furniture seller, announced all staff were eligible for four months of paid leave when a baby is born. American Express announced an even more generous plan, offering 20 weeks at full pay for all workers. Even President Donald Trump jumped on the bandwagon and announced his support for six weeks of paid maternity leave.

For expectant parents working at companies with newly expanded leave policies, this is great news. However, not all people work for companies with generous maternity or paternity leave programs. Government figures suggest only 12 percent of workers at private companies have access to paid parental leave.

More importantly, just because a company offers a benefit doesn’t mean workers use it. For example, roughly half of all people in the U.S. don’t use all their vacation days.

While knowing figures on access to paid leave is useful, more useful is knowing the number of workers who actually take maternity leave. While maternity leave sounds like a great benefit, if it means a cut in pay or a chance of losing a particular job, some women might not take advantage of the benefit.

Recently, I published research that looks at how many working women today are taking maternity leave compared with a few decades ago. The results are not encouraging.