Strong employer childcare and maternity leave programs can soon become a good business practice.
Many mothers living in the USA complain about lack of paid maternity leave and affordable childcare services. Unlike most developed countries, the U.S. has no federally-mandated paid maternity leave as well as family-friendly policies and programs. This factor caused the country's rating to drop on the annual World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Gender Gap Report. When it comes to overall gender equality, the U.S. ranked 28th among 145 countries, while in 2014 it was 20th.
Let's see what maternity leave programs other countries provide. For example, Iceland offers 90 days of government-paid maternity leave during which mothers get 49 percent of their wage. Bolivia provides 90 days of paid maternity leave, with 100 percent of wages paid to mothers. Mothers in China, ranked 91st on the list, get 128 days of paid leave, receiving 100 percent of wages. Even Yemen offers 70 days of paid leave, during which mothers are paid 100 percent of wages. Only nine countries from the 145 countries on the list offered no paid leave, including the 2nd-ranking Norway and 100th-ranking Cyprus.
Staying without financial support women often have to choose between family and career. Many women who worked full-time before giving birth to a child had to switch to part-time jobs to balance together work and family.
While the government fails to regulate paid maternity leave or childcare, some private businesses do provide it. For example, BAE Systems Land & Armaments, one of the largest companies in York County, offers its women employees from six to eight weeks of paid maternity leave, plus up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Even though BAE does not have any childcare programs or discounts, it provides an employee assistance program and parents are also allowed to use vacation time.
With around 15,000 employees 83 percent of which are women, Wellspan, another big company in York County, offers childcare services in addition to paid maternity leave. The company provides these benefits as it feels the need to keep its employees at work and ensure their best performance. New mothers working at Wellspan receive from six to eight weeks of paid leave, plus up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and the opportunity to use accrued paid vacation. The company also provides a range of benefits to those employees who need to take care of an aging parent or adult with special needs.
By offering such benefits and meeting the employee needs these companies distinguish themselves among other employers. And while there is no special government program that would fund maternity leaves it should be the responsibility of the companies to do this, and make it easier for women to come back to work when they have children.