It’s not unusual in the United States for a new mother to quit her job after giving birth to a child. Sam is only 9 months old, and his mother, Lora, dreaded the thought of going back to work.
"I only got six weeks with him, and it is just not enough time.We need somebody to take care of him, but the cost of day care in D.C. is really high. I wouldn’t be bringing home enough money at the end of 2 weeks ,umn ,I mean ,to barely cover the day-care bills."
While the U.S. is nowhere close to a federal law that mandates paid maternity leave, some states are addressing the issue. A new law in New York assures new mothers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave; New Jersey covers 67 percent of six weeks of leave. California covers 55 percent of six weeks; Rhode Island covers four weeks.
"If you live in one of those four states, then you are covered and eligible to get paid leave during those times, but if you live in the rest of the US, it really just depends on whether or not your employer voluntarily offers those benefits,since we do not have any national programs to provide wage replacement to people when they are on leave."
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor a national program that would allow new mothers to take 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. This is an improvement over the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act —which provides job-protected unpaid leave to government employees or those in private sector companies with 50 or more employees. But critics say that law only covers 60 percent of new mothers because only 60 percent of workers even qualify, and many new moms cannot afford to take time off.
"The United States hasn’t caught up with the fact that most women today work. You konw, our labor laws ... were set, the majority of them were set a long time ago when families looked very different. But today the majority of women work, the majority of mothers work, even the majority of moms who have very young children are in the paid labor force."
Still, some companies do provide not only paid maternity leave but paid paternity leave as well.New dad Joe is thrilled to have six weeks of paid leave.
"I think it is up to employers to pay or not, but the best employers are doing it now. It is good for the employee, which means it is good for the company," he said.
Opponents of a paid family leave law say it’s bad for business because it’s too costly.
"Small businesses cannot afford to have that burden on them. Also, the small businesses cannot afford increases in taxes," said one.
But supporters of the idea say the cost of paid maternity leave is very low relative to the benefit to the family.